Driving is a complex task that must occupy a driver’s full attention. With the advancement in technology and the rise of interactive media, many drivers check their cell phones while driving. Although there are laws governing driver conduct and discouraging the use of cell phones while driving, some drivers continue to engage in this dangerous behavior.
Use of cell phones and other activities like grooming behind the wheel and looking back to have a conversation with a passenger constitute distracted driving. When a driver’s physical and mental concentration is off the road, the vehicle could veer off to other lanes, collide with other cars, or hit pedestrians. If you are involved in a distracted driving accident, the driver can be held liable for the accident and your injuries.
Dealing with insurance companies and the court in your pursuit of compensation is complicated, especially when you are injured. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is critical. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we have the legal knowledge and experience you need in your case to secure maximum compensation. If you or your loved one is battling a car accident lawsuit in Sacramento, CA, you will need our guidance.
An Overview of Distracted Driver Accidents
Statistics show an increasing trend in distracted driving accidents in California. A distracted driver is a driver whose concentration and attention are not on the road and vehicle control. While distracted driving is a severe traffic offense, it is also considered negligence.
Victims of distracted driving accidents can file a civil lawsuit against a driver to recover compensation for the injuries resulting from the accident. There are three main ways through which a driver can be distracted, including:
- Cognitive distractions. A mental distraction is when a driver takes their mind off the vehicle control or concentration on the road. California laws on cognitive distraction are stringent, and a law enforcement officer can pull you over if your driving conduct exhibits mental distraction.
- Manual distractions. This type of distraction results in the driver taking their hands off the steering wheel. The driver controls the vehicle using the steering wheel, gear shift lever, or clutch. Manual distractions occur when the driver reaches out to collect something from the car or when they eat while driving.
- Visual distractions. As you operate a vehicle, visual abilities are key. Your ability to see an oncoming car, pedestrian, or obstacle will help you avoid it. When a driver takes their eyes off the road, the likelihood of a collision increases.
Common Types of Common Driver Distractions
Several factors could take away a driver’s visual, physical, and mental concentration from the road. When you file a claim with the distracted driver’s insurance company or the court, you must have sufficient evidence to prove the exact way that the defendant exhibited distraction. Common driver distractions addressed in California personal injury cases include:
Texting While Driving
In America, drivers have the habit of texting while behind the wheel. Although the dangers of this behavior are known to everyone, most drivers, especially the younger ones, still engage in this conduct. According to NHTSA, more than 600,000 drivers use their cell phones anytime. The use of cell phones contributes to a high percentage of car accidents compared to other distractions.
Due to the increased risk of accidents and injuries that the use of cell phones poses, California has enacted laws that prohibit this behavior and punish individuals who engage in it. Using a cell phone to text or reach out to pick up a call causes visual and cognitive distractions. When proving negligence in a distracted driving accident, you can use cell phone records to show that the driver was texting.
Talking on the Phone While Driving
Talking on the phone is another distraction that could cause a driver to lose concentration on the road and vehicle control. Distraction begins when your phone rings from within the car, and you must remove one hand from the steering and reach for it.
Research has found that even simple conversations can cause distraction. Researchers have found that talking on the phone causes mind lag in the driver, and their reaction time to situations is slower. Driving requires total concentration and fast responses in case of an emergency. The likelihood of a collision increases if the driver's mind is on their phone conversation.
Checking Road Signs
When drivers operate in a new area, they must check the road signs. Road signs take a lot of visual concentration. Road signs could include warning signs, road markings, and street signs. If a driver is reading the sign, it means that they cannot see where they are going and can end up colliding with other vehicles or hitting obstacles on the road. For young or inexperienced drivers, road signs can be complex to understand. Therefore, the driver puts all their concentration on it instead of the road.
Eating and Drinking While Driving
Snacking while driving is more dangerous than most people assume. At least 8% of all distracted driving accidents result from eating or drinking while behind the wheel. Fast food drive-throughs are a common culture in the United States.
When a driver grabs a quick bite on their way home, their concentration may be geared away from the road. The right way to drive is to have both hands on the steering wheel. When one of the hands is holding a cup of coffee, the driver’s control over the vehicle is limited.
Watching People and Events While Driving
External distractions like staring at a crash, reading billboards, and looking at other exciting things outside the vehicle cause serious distractions. Sometimes, staring at these things requires more attention than vehicle occupants.
Research has shown that drivers spend up to half of their driving time concentrating on situations outside the vehicle or road. The decision to stare at something to draw your concentration outside the vehicle is the most significant factor in collisions. Without visual and mental attention, the driver drifts out of their lane and increases the chances of collisions with stationary objects or other vehicles.
Climate Control or Adjusting the Radio
When a driver reaches out to change a radio channel or tries to change the car settings, their physical and visual concentration is off the road. Taking a hand off the steering wheel limits the driver’s vehicle control in emergencies.
Children in the Vehicle
Most parents do not realize the level of distraction that children cause. Having a child in the back seat is a leading cause of distracted driving accidents in California. Whether you engage in a verbal argument or try to break up a sibling fight, dealing with the children takes all your attention off the road and can cause a severe car crash.
Talking with Passengers
Having a passenger in the vehicle creates an unrealistic demand for attention from the driver. While talking with someone in the car may seem effortless, it can take the visual and mental concentration of the driver off the road. At least 62% of all young drivers have reported being distracted by their friends. Coupled with poor driving skills, this may result in catastrophic accidents.
Daydreaming While Driving
Zoning out or daydreaming is common, especially when you drive on stretches of road familiar to you. Daydreaming takes your mental concentration away from the demanding activity of operating a vehicle.
Grooming and Applying Makeup
Some individuals are adamant about looking their best before arriving at their destination. Life is hectic. Balancing family, work, and community obligations can leave you with no time for self-attention. While running late, you could be tempted to steal a few seconds to freshen up and apply makeup as you drive.
Unfortunately, a few seconds of distraction can have a devastating and long-term impact. Like texting, grooming requires you to take your attention off the road and at least one hand off the steering wheel. When you are distracted with grooming, your reaction time will be twice as slow as that of a normal driver.
Although it may seem like a bygone era, many drivers around the country still smoke or use ashtrays while behind the wheel. For a driver to smoke, they will need to locate a cigarette pack while focusing on vehicle control. Unsuccessful attempts to use the lighter pull more concentration on the action than driving.
After smoking, the driver must ensure that the cigarette is off. A slight mistake or slow judgment is enough to cause a catastrophic accident and severe injuries. A National Institutes of Health study showed that smoking causes more distractions than cell phone use.
When you file a claim against a distracted driver for causing your accident and injuries, cigarette buds or an ashtray in their vehicle could help you prove your distraction theory.
Types of Accidents Caused by Distracted Drivers
Distracted driving has the potential to cause catastrophic accidents and serious injuries. Common types of accidents that are associated with a distracted driver include:
- Rear-end collisions. A rear-end collision is an accident that occurs when one vehicle crashes into another from the rear. California law requires drivers to keep a significant difference with the car informed of them. When a driver is distracted, they could fail to keep that distance and hit the other vehicle. Another way a distracted driver causes rear-end collisions is by stopping suddenly, causing a series of crashes.
- Head-on collision. A frontal impact collision happens when two vehicles crash into each other from the front. If a driver is physically distracted, they cannot see oncoming cars and can crash into them. Rear-end collisions are some of the most catastrophic car collisions.
- Pedestrian accidents. Most victims of pedestrian accidents often lose their lives or sustain severe and lifelong injuries. A pedestrian accident occurs when a vehicle hits pedestrians on pavements or while crossing the road. Driver distraction is a significant contributing factor in pedestrian accidents. A driver without concentration on the road can fail to notice pedestrians crossing and run them over.
- Motorcycle accidents. Distracted drivers commit various traffic violations, like failing to yield the right of way and making reckless turns. When sharing the road with motorcycles, distracted drivers can throw the motorcyclists out of the road or hit them from behind.
Steps to Take after a Distracted Driver Collision
Suffering injuries from the negligence of a distracted driver is devastating. However, the steps you take after the accident are vital in holding the driver liable and recovering maximum compensation for your injuries. The following are steps you must follow after your accident:
Remain at the Accident Scene
If you are involved in a distracted driver accident where someone was injured or killed, you should never attempt to leave the scene. Unless you need immediate medical care, you should remain at the scene or move to a safe place.
Contact the Police
If police officers are not already at the accident scene, you need to dial 911. Police officers help you ensure the safety of involved parties and assess the accident scene. After initial investigations and some interviews, the officers will write a report detailing their view on account of events. The police report is crucial since it helps your attorney with information you fail to capture at the scene.
Seek Medical Attention
Distracted driving accidents result in some of the most severe accident injuries. From head-on collisions to T-bone collisions and rollover accidents, you will rarely escape these accidents without an injury. You must seek medical care even if you do not feel physical pain. Some car accident injuries do not exhibit physical wounds but, when left untreated, can be life-threatening.
Consulting with a physician after the accidents allows for early injury detection and treatment. Additionally, receiving expert treatment allows room for documentation of your injuries. As you seek treatment, mention all the injuries you did not have before the accident. You must also ensure that your doctor documents every stage of your treatment. Medical records are vital in recovering compensation.
Collect evidence from the scene
Although you may be experiencing trauma from the accident, you must collect your thoughts and record every evidence available at the scene. Significant evidence may include insurance information of the faulted driver, witness testimonies, and scene photographs. When the police clear the accident scene, some information could be challenging to recover.
Do Not Admit to Fault for the Accident
Whether you speak to the police or have normal conversations at the accident scene, you should never admit to fault for the accident. Some acts, like apologizing to the victims, could be considered an admission of fault. You should never divulge that information, even when you are partially to blame for your accident.
Since California is a comparative fault state, being partially liable for the accident could reduce the amount you stand to recover from your claim or civil lawsuit. If someone tries to pressure you into admitting fault for the accidents, you should politely decline and ask them to contact your insurance company.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer
Dealing with the physical and mental impact of a car accident is complicated. Unfortunately, it would be best if you quickly began recovering compensation from the fault parties. While you nurse your injuries, the services of a skilled personal injury attorney are essential.
Your lawyer will help you gather evidence for your case and represent you in your lawsuit. Your attorney can also help you deal with insurance adjusters and uncover tactics to downplay your claim.
If a distracted driver’s negligence causes your injuries, you want to hold them accountable for their actions. You can recover compensation by filing a claim and negotiating with the fault party’s insurance company. However, if the insurance company is unwilling to pay the compensation you deserve, you can file a civil lawsuit and battle it out in court.
Key Evidence in Distracted Driver Accident Lawsuits
When you file a personal injury claim against a distracted driver after an accident, their insurance provider will not agree to compensate you without putting up a fight. Therefore, you will require solid evidence to establish every aspect of your claim for a better chance at compensation. The following is some of the evidence you can use in your case:
Immediately after an accident, you must call the police officers to the scene. The law enforcement officers will assess the accident scene and interview some of the people at the scene before writing a report.
A police report contains their observations and opinion on liability. With the help of your injury lawyer, you can subpoena the police report and use it to prove that the defendant was distracted and, as a result, they caused your accident.
Additionally, the police report can help your lawyer obtain witness statements and contacts. If the driver was negligent in their driving and was cited for traffic violations before the accident, this information could appear in the police report.
Distracted Driver’s Phone Records
Texting while driving is a common type of distraction that causes car accidents. If you argue that the driver’s negligence resulted from using a cell phone, you must present relevant evidence to establish this fact.
Although the faulty driver may decide to delete the messages of phone calls made at the time of the accident, your attorney can supine their cell phone records. A subpoena is a legal order that allows a lawyer to collect evidence.
You should identify witnesses and take their contacts as part of evidence collection at the accident scene. Since most drivers do not have dashboard cameras, you may need to rely on witness testimony and police reports on the events leading up to the accident.
Video and Photograph Evidence
While witness testimony may not always be reliable in personal injury cases, nothing beats the weight of visual evidence. A dashboard camera can record the view from your vehicle. These cameras could videotape the impact, time of the crash, and other activities surrounding your vehicle.
In a distracted driver accident lawsuit, you can use the video from the dashboard camera against the defendant. You can also check the accident scene for any CCTV cameras that may have captured the collision.
Even after proving that a driver was distracted and caused the accident, you need to prove that you suffered an injury. Your medical records are significant evidence when claiming compensation in a distracted driver accident lawsuit. The court and insurance companies require you to provide medical records to ensure that the injuries for which you seek compensation resulted from the accident.
Lost Wages Letter
One of the losses you suffer after an accident is the inability to return to work. You must prove the loss if you seek compensation for the amount lost while you cannot work. Your employer writes a letter of lost wages, indicating your work hours and the amount you earn each hour. With this information, the court will determine the amount you lost.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a driver is considered distracted when focused on any activity other than driving. Driver distractions can either be cognitive, manual, or visual. California has put several laws for drivers, and driving while distracted violates these laws. The likelihood of causing an accident is higher when the driver fails to concentrate on the road and vehicle control. If you or your loved one is injured in a distracted driver accident, you can recover compensation by filing a claim or lawsuit against the driver.
To recover compensation for your injuries, you will need to prove liability for the accident. Additionally, it would be best if you established the losses you suffered. Most distracted driving accidents result in catastrophic injuries.
While you nurse your injuries, you will require an attorney to be on top of your case and help you recover compensation. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we understand the devastation of suffering an injury from another person’s negligence. We offer competent legal guidance and representation to all our clients battling personal injury claims in Sacramento, CA. Contact us today at 916-779-3500.