The Problem of Distracted Drivers
Millions of Distracted Drivers Across the Country are Putting Other Drivers at Risk
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania considers distracted driving to be anything that can cause you to take your attention away from driving, take your eyes off the road, or take your hands off the wheel. Unfortunately, millions of drivers every day turn their attention from driving to other things, increasing the chances of a collision or other accident.
When you are involved in a car accident, it can be even more devastating knowing that it could have easily been prevented because the driver was not paying attention to the road. If you have suffered an injury because another driver was not paying attention to the road, an experienced car accident lawyer will help you recover damages for your suffering.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is defined as any activity that averts the driver’s attention away from the road. It can be something as common as adjusting your radio or internal temperature or something more major. Distractions include texting while driving and eating in the car.
It is virtually impossible to drive safely when you are not fully concentrating on the road in front of you. Even if the distraction only lasts a moment, you can still travel a significant distance in that time. In that moment, a vehicle that might have been a mile ahead of you could easily be only a few feet away and too close to stop in time.
The result could be a car swerving suddenly out of a lane to avoid colliding with the car in front of them. That spontaneous action could cause additional problems such as colliding with another vehicle in the corresponding lane. It could also cause those cars to have to swerve to avoid the car entering their lane, which could cause additional accidents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes the three main types of distracted driving behaviors. They are:
- Visual: Anything that gets a driver to look away from the road, including distractions within the car and outside of the car.
- Cognitive: Anything that causes a driver’s mind to wander away from the task of driving.
- Manual: Anything that causes a driver to take his or her hands off the wheel while driving.
What Are Common Types of Distracted Driving?
Texting while driving gets most of the headlines these days, but it is important to remember that there are many ways a driver can be distracted from the road. If you notice any of these behaviors leading up to an accident, they can help your lawyer prove your injury claim. They include:
- Drowsy driving
- Eating, drinking, or smoking
- Looking for an item in the vehicle
- Personal grooming
- Reading or writing
- Talking to other passengers
If you think a driver was distracted or texting, causing an accident in which you were involved, be sure to notify a lawyer experienced in personal injury to investigate the claim. It may help you prove your case and secure compensation for your injuries.
How Does Pennsylvania Handle Texting While Driving?
The most common and most talked-about type of distracted driving in the United States is texting while driving. Pennsylvania law prohibits texting while driving by banning the use of any interactive wireless communication device (IWCD) while a vehicle is in motion.
However, the law is not absolute. The ban does not include the use of a GPS system, nor does it include any system that can operate through the vehicle’s system. In addition, you are still free to send and receive text messages so long as the car is not in motion, including while you are waiting at a red light.
The current law imposes a $50 fine for convictions along with court costs, a surcharge, and other fees. In total, a person could find themselves receiving a distracted driving ticket that can run them more than $100.
However, it will not put any points on the penalized driver, and the infraction is not recorded on a non-commercial driver’s record. The ban, although helpful, is not particularly severe, especially when you consider that sending a single text takes your eyes off the road while traveling the length of a football field.
The penalties do get more severe if a person is guilty of texting while driving and they cause an accident that leads to the injury or death of others. Those causing serious bodily injury could receive up to two years in prison, while those who cause death could see five years.
In terms of enforcing the law, there are two ways to go about doing it:
- Primary enforcement: This means that a police officer does not need any other reason to pull you over if they see that you are in violation of the commonwealth’s distracted driving laws.
- Secondary enforcement: In this situation, the police can cite you for distracted driving only if you are breaking another law at the same time.
Pennsylvania follows the former, meaning that even if you are obeying all the traffic laws, if you are still engaged in distracted driving, the police can pull you over and issue you a summons.
The regulations place a distracted driver in breach of the law if it can be proved that the driver was texting at the time of an accident. This can be a huge advantage when filing an injury claim after a car accident. If you have been hurt in an accident that was caused by a distracted driver, you should consult with a car accident lawyer.
Can I Be Held Liable for Any Distracted Driving?
Most distractions that a driver encounters are their own fault, and it is in those situations when they can be held liable for any damage that they cause because of it. However, not all distracted driving is necessarily the fault of the driver themselves. There are instances when there is justified distraction. It is a rare occurrence, but it can keep certain drivers from being held liable for any injuries or damages that they might have caused.
To avoid liability, a defendant may attempt to use an emergency doctrine to argue that they acted negligently in response to a sudden emergency. An example of such a situation could be the driver responding to an incident taking place within their car, such as defending themselves from an attack from someone in the back seat or caring for a person next to the driver. These could both be instances of the driver getting distracted to focus on an emergency.
How Can I Prove Another Driver Was Distracted Behind the Wheel?
If you believe that distracted driving is what led another driver to cause the accident that led to your injuries, your lawyer will have to prove that the driver was distracted at the time of the accident. To accomplish this, they will have to produce evidence to support this claim.
For instance, if you suspect that the driver was either on the phone or text messaging just prior to the accident, your lawyer will want to obtain phone records from the defendant and cross-reference them with the time of the accident. If those records show that the phone was active during the accident, that will be one way to prove the driver was distracted and that led to the accident. To support that evidence, it is always good to speak with eyewitnesses who may have seen the accident and can testify to the driver’s state at the time.
How Can I Collect on Damages in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is a choice no-fault state, meaning you have the option to file a claim on your own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance or seek a claim against the at-fault driver. It will depend on the type of insurance you purchased prior to your accident. When you first purchase car insurance in the commonwealth, you have the choice of two different types of car insurance. Those choices are:
Limited-tort coverage: Offers drivers a cheaper price on their annual premiums, but in exchange you are prohibited from filing a claim against another driver and instead must settle with what you can get through your PIP, which is limited.
Full-tort coverage: Allows drivers to file a claim against an at-fault driver; means there is no limit on the compensation a driver can request. This option is not as popular, as it comes with higher premiums.
It is important to note that you must have the appropriate insurance purchased prior to your accident. You cannot upgrade your insurance after an accident with the goal of filing a claim against another driver.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me after an Accident?
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries because of a car accident or if you lost a loved one in a car accident, you should hire a car accident lawyer who can assist you in three key areas. Those include:
- Assessing the value of your settlement claim.
- Holding negligent parties accountable to obtain full and fair compensation.
- Explaining how and when you can expect to be compensated.
As stated in a distracted driving accident, a lawyer will work with you to gather the necessary evidence to prove that the at-fault driver was distracted at the time of the accident, and it is what caused the accident. If you have suffered significant injuries, it could have a severe impact on your life. You could be looking at a prolonged rehabilitation. The last thing you need to worry about the financial impact your accident will have on you. Your lawyer can handle the legal aspects of your case while you focus on your recovery.
You could be wondering if it is worth it to hire a lawyer for your case, but you should realize that whoever you are dealing with will be represented by a lawyer. That includes another driver, their insurance, or even your insurance company. The other party will do everything they can to minimize the amount of money that they have to pay you.
You need a lawyer on your side who will argue on your behalf and not allow the opposing party to offer you less compensation than you are owed for your accident, or have you sign any documents that will be negative on you in the long-term.
What Should I Do after an Accident with a Distracted Driver?
The moments immediately following an accident can be highly emotional. You could be in a state of shock as you grapple with the reality of what just happened. Although you might need a moment or two to collect your thoughts, do not let the opportunity pass you by to take care of several important things in that moment. Those steps include:
- Be safe: The first thing to do is ensure the health of yourself and everyone else involved. Call 911 in case anyone is injured. Even if you do not believe you were hurt, have yourself evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible to ensure that there are no lingering issues.
- Secure the area: Make sure that the area is secure and if possible move all vehicles onto the side of the road to keep everyone out of the flow of traffic.
- Exchange information: You will need to exchange information with all the other drivers involved, including contact information and insurance information. When you are speaking with other drivers, do not accept any responsibility for the accident and do not offer any apologies. It could be all used against you later as a part of a potential lawsuit.
- Talk to eyewitnesses: If the other driver was on the phone or otherwise distracted, eyewitnesses might be able to testify to that. Speak to anyone on the scene who might have seen the accident, and make sure you get their name and contact information.
- Collect evidence: You will want to gather as much evidence at the scene as possible. Take photos of any damage to the vehicle, take meticulous notes on what you remember happening, and secure a copy of the police report from the police officer on the scene. In addition, save any medical reports you receive for any injuries you or others in your vehicles might have suffered.
It is important when you speak with the police or any other drivers at the scene that you do not disclose too much about your role in the accident. Be cooperative with the police officers, but you need to stop short of accepting responsibility for your role. The officer is then to write an objective report of the incident, and anything you tell them will be memorialized in the report, which could damage your case in the future.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, Represent Clients Hurt by a Distracted Driver
If you have injured in a car accident by a driver who was distracted behind the wheel, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. The Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, can help you obtain full and fair compensation so you avoid any financial deficits that you do not deserve. We will fight hard for you to prove your case. Call us today at 215-569-4888 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.