What Is Distracted Driving?
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When drivers first enter driver’s education they are taught the basics: keep your hands at the 10:00 and 2:00, never get behind the wheel when you have been drinking, and never take your eyes off the road. While many drivers occasionally break these rules, they can have a dangerous effect on fellow motorists. Perhaps the most common of these driving errors, that far too many of us engage in on a regular basis, is distracted driving.
If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver or if you are dealing with an insurance company after being involved in a car accident, call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation. Our team of distracted driver injury attorneys has extensive experience with distracted driving cases and dealing with insurance companies. We will do everything necessary to help you maximize your potential for recovery.
Dangerous, Distracted Behavior
Studies indicate that distracted driving accidents have steadily increased over time, likely correlating with the rise in cellphone ownership and increased duration of cellphone use. According to a 2019 study published by Bloomberg, an average driver is distracted by their smartphone—i.e. making calls, reading/sending texting, or swiping through apps—anywhere from 24% to 26% of their driving time. While we hope that the majority of this time is spent while waiting in traffic or for traffic lights to change, the growing number of distractions faced by modern drivers has led to an increase in distraction-related accidents.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving occurs any time the driver’s attention is diverted away from the action of driving for a substantial period of time. While distracted driving accidents generally result from dangerous vehicular conduct that extends for multiple seconds, even a distraction that lasts milliseconds could be deadly if encountered at the wrong time.
Getting distracted behind the wheel imposes tremendous risks on fellow motorists and the number of ways that drivers can distract themselves is growing alarming quickly, resulting in a steady increase in distracted driving accidents over the years. While distractions can manifest in copious forms, there are three common categories to characterize how the distraction is inhibiting the driver. These distraction categories include:
A cognitive distraction refers to a disturbance that interferes with the driver's cognitive perception of the roadway for an extended period of time. Cognitive distractions don’t just distract a driver physically and visually, but mentally also, diminishing a driver's attention.
Some typical cognitive distractions may include:
- Focusing on a distressed or misbehaving child in the back seat
- Focusing on a rambunctious pet
- Focusing on a phone call or conversation with a fellow passenger
- Focusing on external, stressful situations unrelated to driving
Visual distractions refer to any impediments, events, or behaviors which cause a driver to shift their eyes away from the roadway. Oftentimes this type of distraction overlaps with manual and cognitive distractions; for example, while a driver may be physically manipulating a loose item in the back seat, they may also look backwards to facilitate the process. Other common visual distractions may include:
- Looking at a cellphone to read text messages or any typed content, or even looking to see who is calling
- Looking at digital entertainment systems in the car
- Checking one's appearance in the mirror
- Looking for the buttons to change the radio station
- Focusing one's gaze on a passenger
- Looking at the GPS or a map
Manual distractions occur when the driver is distracted by something that involves using their hands for activities other than driving. When a driver is manually distracted, this means they are unable to control the vehicle to the fullest extent. Some of the more common manual distractions include:
- Sending text messages
- Dialing a phone number
- Eating and drinking
- Personal grooming activities (such as changing clothes, fixing one's hair, or applying makeup)
- Adjusting radio or dashboard controls
Distracted Driving Laws
The majority of states have enacted some form of law or state statute that prohibits distracted driving. While the definition for what constitutes “distracted driving” varies from state to state, the definitions generally prescribe some form of conduct as illegal while an individual is driving because it prevents the driver from doing something that they are required to do in order to operate the vehicle in a safe manner.
Distracted driving laws can cover a wide variety of activities or merely contain sweeping language which prohibits any sort of distraction while operating a motor vehicle. The most common distracted driving laws, unsurprisingly, involve the driver's cellphone use.
As with other distracted driving laws, the laws surrounding cellphone usage also vary greatly from state to state. While some states prohibit any handheld use of a cellphone while driving, other states may have laws which are specifically intended to prevent cellphone use for specific groups of drivers, such as bus operators or young drivers.
Primary and Secondary Laws
When a state has a distracted driving law or a law banning manual cellphone usage in the car, they can take the form of either a primary law or a secondary law. In states where the driving-cellphone ban is primary law, you can be pulled over and ticketed if an officer sees you using a handheld electronic device. If, however you are driving in a state where it is a secondary law, the violation can only be cited if you were pulled over for another traffic violation.
If you are uncertain about the distracted driving laws in your state, you can view the specifics of each state’s distracted driving laws at The Governors Highway Safety Association website.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim for a Distracted Driving Accident
The majority of car accident cases involve some form of property damage claim and may include personal injury claims, depending on the severity of the accident. A personal injury is a legal term that refers to an injury to or of an individual's body, mind or psyche, as opposed to an injury to their property.
Under both legal claims, personal injury and property damage, liability or "fault" is generally attributed based on a theory of negligence. While we often use negligence in the colloquial sense, it's legal definition carries additional weight.
Negligence, in the legal sense, refers to a situation where an individual failed to use reasonable care to prevent harm to themselves or to others. In the example of a car accident, if one of the drivers failed to use reasonable caution, causing a car crash, then they could be held responsible for any injuries or losses that result.
In order to demonstrate that the other party was negligent, plaintiffs will typically have to prove five elements:
A legal duty arises when the law recognizes that there is a relationship between the defendant and the plaintiff which requires the defendant to act in a particular manner, often referred to as the "standard of care," toward the plaintiff. In the event of a car accident, the other driver (the defendant) owed you (the plaintiff) a duty of care to operate their motor vehicle safely.
Standard of Care
A "standard of care" refers to the degree of diligence and caution that the law requires of an individual who is under a duty of care. In a car crash case, the plaintiff will argue that the defendant requires the defendant to exercise at least a reasonable degree of diligence and caution in operating their vehicle.
A breach of that legal duty occurs when the defendant fails to exercise appropriate care. Some examples of a breach of a legal duty in a distracted driving accident could be texting while driving or eating while driving.
For a defendant to be held legally and financially responsible, the defendant’s breach was the but-for or proximate cause of the accident; meaning but for driver distraction, the accident would not have happened.
In any civil case for financial compensation, a plaintiff must prove a legally recognized harm, usually in the form of physical injury to a person or to property, in order to recover. In regard to car accident cases, the economic damages are generally fairly easy to calculate. Rather, it is the noneconomic damages (such as pain and suffering or lost companionship) that result from life-altering injuries which can be more difficult to prove.
Ultimately, if the plaintiff can prove that the other driver acted negligently, then they can be held financially liable for any losses that the plaintiff or their beneficiaries incurred as a part of the accident and the subsequent recovery.
Although establishing these elements in court can be challenging, the personal injury attorneys at Zinda Law Group are here to help you legitimize your claim and seek optimal recovery for your injuries. Do not hesitate to reach out to an attorney to help you begin the process of filing a distracted driving car accident claim.
Get a Free Consultation for Your Distracted Driving Case from Zinda Law Group
At Zinda Law Group, our car accident lawyers have helped many distracted driving accident victims and their families get their lives back on track after suffering injuries, death, and financial losses.
Our firm believes that injured clients should not have to worry about their ability to afford high-quality legal representation. This is why we offer 100% free consultations. Zinda Law Group operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will pay nothing unless we achieve a favorable settlement, judgment, or verdict for your claim. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you or a loved one has been hit by a distracted driver and suffered injuries or experienced property damage, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free consultation with our car accident attorneys today. We are also offering free virtual consultations during the COVID-19 crisis.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.