According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, close to 3,000 people per year lose their lives due to distracted driving. Despite laws being passed with increasing penalties, the incidence of distracted driving continues to increase. A large percentage of these accidents happen on Orange County freeways where stop-and-go traffic requires constant attention. When cars are close together, even the slightest distraction can cause a serious crash. That’s why victims of distracted driving accidents often suffer catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), paralysis, and blindness.
If you have recently been involved in a distracted driving accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact an Orange County distracted driving accident attorney at the Crockett Law Group to learn about how we can help you maximize your settlement. Call (800) 900-9393 for a free consultation with a car accident lawyer in Orange County.
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What Is Distracted Driving?
The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) defines distracted driving as “anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road or your hands off the steering wheel.” Basically, doing anything other than driving your car could qualify as distracted driving because drivers have a duty to devote their full attention to operating their vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration differentiates between three types of distraction:
- Cognitive Distraction: This occurs when your mind wanders from the task of driving
- Manual Distraction: This occurs when you take one or both hands off the steering wheel
- Visual Distraction: This occurs when you take your eyes off the road
There is usually a combination of these three different types of distraction in the following activities:
- Texting while driving
- Cell phone conversations
- Talking to passengers
- Watching a video
- Using a navigation system
- Adjusting the radio
- Eating and drinking
Texting while driving is the biggest culprit of them all because of how common it is and because it requires all three types of distraction (cognitive, manual, visual). Even though 81.9 percent of Californians acknowledge that texting while driving is the most dangerous type of distraction, it’s still the most prevalent distraction there is. This is especially true of young drivers where as much as 73 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 to 20 admit to texting while driving. That’s pretty alarming.
What Laws Does California Have Regarding Distracted Driving?
Initially, California laws prohibited all use of cell phones and electronic devices by drivers, providing exceptions only for emergencies or “work-related” purposes. These early laws also prohibited the use of all electronic devices by minors, even if they were hands-free. In 2016, California amped up the laws even further, prohibiting driving while using a handheld mobile phone for any reason whatsoever, even for emergencies. In 2017, the law was strengthened yet again.
As of 2017, California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5 makes it illegal to hold and use a cell phone while operating a vehicle, even if you’re not talking or texting. This new law makes it easier to prosecute offenders because now the officer only has to prove the phone was in your hand, not that you were talking on it or texting.
It’s important to note that even though it’s legal in California to use a cell phone when it’s hands-free, even that can be used as evidence of negligence for the purpose of a civil lawsuit. It’s not necessary for you to prove the other driver violated a specific vehicle code section, just that they were inattentive while driving.
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What Injuries Are Commonly Caused by Distracted Driving Accidents?
Distracted driving poses a danger for everybody else on the road, period. With that being said, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable. This group is more likely to sustain serious and/or fatal injuries at the hands of a distracted driver due to being relatively less protected than a vehicle occupant.
According to survey respondents in 2018, the biggest safety concern for pedestrians in California is distracted drivers (31.8 percent). Drivers feel similarly towards pedestrians and bicyclists, though. Survey respondents reported their second biggest concern when driving around pedestrians and bicyclists is their being distracted by their phones or earbuds.
Even when the distracted driving accident involved two vehicles, the injuries can be devastating. These are some of the most common injuries we see in Orange County, CA, distracted driving accidents:
- Back injury
- Burn injury
- Brain injury
- Catastrophic injuries
- Herniated disc injury
- Internal organ injury
- Lacerations and bruises
- Neck injury
- Soft tissue injury
Despite public relations efforts to reduce distracted driving accidents, like the “Silence the Distraction” emoji campaign and informative websites like justdriveca.org, we still have a ways to go. For example, California failed to meet its 2018 goal of reducing injury collisions caused by drivers using cell phones when it increased by 6 percent. With that being said, we made great progress in reducing fatal collisions caused by drivers using cell phones, which decreased by more than 30 percent.
How Is Negligence Proven in Distracted Driving Accidents?
There are four elements that you’ll have to prove to win a claim against a distracted driver who caused injuries to you:
- Duty of care: Drivers owe a duty of care to their passengers and to everybody else on the roadway.
- Breach of duty: When a driver fails to pay attention to the road by texting, talking on their phone, or putting on makeup, they breach that duty.
- Causes harm: Somebody was injured as a result of the driver not paying attention.
- Damages: That person injured needs to be compensated for their monetary losses and for their pain and suffering.
Proving just four simple elements may seem straightforward, but that’s not always the case. The first element, duty of care, is relatively straightforward because everyone owes a duty to others the moment they step foot on a road. But what about the other elements?
The second element, breach of duty, can be tricky. How do you prove someone was texting, for example? The texting driver would have to admit to it, or you’d need an independent witness or surveillance footage to corroborate it. The third element, causing harm, can be tricky too. For example, some accident victims that claim neck or back injuries have a prior history of neck or back pain that started before the accident. In that case, you would need to convey exactly how the accident exacerbated your pre-existing injuries.
An experienced Orange County distracted driving accident attorney knows exactly how to prove negligence for these types of situations.
What Damages Are Available for Distracted Driving Accidents?
Victims of distracted driving accidents may be able to recover compensation for a range of damages:
- Vehicle repair costs
- Rental vehicle costs
- Lost income
- Diminished earning capacity
- Cost of medical bills from treatment
- Cost of future medical care
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
However, just because you have a right to recover compensation for all of these things doesn’t mean the at-fault driver’s insurance company will give them to you freely. It’s often a dogfight and there’s a time limit for bringing your claim. This time limit is referred to as a statute of limitations. In California, you have to file a formal lawsuit within two years from the date of the distracted driving accident or you will be barred from ever doing so. In some cases, the time limit can be even shorter (e.g., when a government entity is involved).
Get Help for Your Claim With an Orange County Distracted Driving Accident Attorney
According to the OTS, approximately 60 percent of California drivers have been hit, or nearly hit, by a driver who was talking or texting. In fact, even using hands-free technology can distract our brains according to the National Safety Council. In order to successfully collect the maximum amount of compensation for these victims, an attorney must be able to prove the other driver was distracted. That is no easy task.
As distracted driving injury lawyers, we regularly represent the interests of victims who have been treated unfairly by an insurance company. The Crockett Law Group is committed to handling your injury claim from start to finish and will fight to make sure that you receive the money you deserve. If you’ve been injured as a result of a distracted driving accident, contact the Crockett Law Group to speak with a personal injury attorney at (800) 900-9393.