It is estimated that roughly 1,000 people are injured and nine people die each day in traffic accidents involving a distracted driver. Only 16 states, including California, ban drivers from using a hand-held cell phone while driving. The ban is a primary law, meaning a police officer does not need another reason to pull over a driver other than the driver violating the ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving. Unfortunately, cell phone use is only one factor that contributes to distracted driving.

The California distracted driving attorneys of The Thompson Law Office assist accident victims file claims for distracted driving accidents. For a free consultation with an attorney, call our office at 1-650-513-6111.

In this article, our California distracted driving accident attorney discuss: (click on a topic to go directly to that section)

What Can Happen When a Driver is Distracted?

The following is just one of the tragic and preventable examples of what can happen when a driver is distracted:

On the morning of April 27, 2011, Deanna M. sat parked in her Hyundai during a typical freeway traffic jam on California’s Interstate 405. On that same morning, Jorene Ypanto Nicolas was several miles behind Deanna also on Interstate 405. She was in a “big hurry” to meet her boyfriend for lunch, so she frantically texted him while she careened her Prius at 80 miles per hour down the Interstate freeway.

With her face buried in her phone, Jorene never even saw the traffic ahead, let alone had the opportunity to slow down, before smashing into the back of Deanna’s Hyundai at 80 miles per hour. Deanna died as a result of the collision. The California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, later commented during the appeal of Jorene’s conviction for gross vehicular manslaughter that because Jorene “was using her cell phone and texting for 17 minutes leading up to the collision,” “she was oblivious to what was right in front of her.”

Forms of Distracted Driving

Even though it is commonly understood that using a cell phone can increase the risk for a distracted driving accident, roughly 481,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving during daylight hours. Distracted drivers were involved in traffic accidents that killed 3,450 people and injured 391,000 people in 2016.

Common forms of distracted driving include:

  • Cell phone use of any type, including hand-held and hands-free
  • Typing, sending, and reading text messages and emails
  • Watching or recording videos
  • Adjusting a vehicle’s controls, including programming a GPS navigation system
  • Eating and drinking
  • Taking care of children and interacting with passengers
  • Grooming, including putting on makeup and brushing hair
  • Reaching for objects in the vehicle
  • Daydreaming or looking at objects outside the vehicle
  • Using social media accounts
  • Reading or writing

Anything a driver does while operating a vehicle that takes the driver’s focus away from driving is a potentially dangerous and deadly distraction. Unfortunately, many individuals believe they can safely multitask while driving. This assumption is just a myth.

Why is Distracted Driving Dangerous?

Many people believe that they can safely do two things at the same time, like driving and talking on a cell phone. Even though our brains can switch from one task to another very quickly, it does not process the tasks at the same time.

According to the NSC, a person’s brain activity that is used for processing images that move is diminished by up to one-third when the person is listening to a conversation on the phone. When a driver is talking on a cell phone, the driver’s field of view narrows causing the driver to miss up to one-half of the things going on around the vehicle.

Understanding How Distractions Impact Driving Ability

There are three types of distractions that can increase a driver’s chance of causing a distracted driving accident:

  • Visual Distractions — Any activity that takes your eyes off the road, including reading billboards, texting while driving, looking at a road sign, or reaching for an object. One study found that taking your eyes off the road for more than two seconds can double your risk for a traffic accident.
  • Physical Distractions — Physical distractions include any activity that requires you to remove your hands from the steering wheel. For instance, drinking or eating, putting on makeup, or changing the radio station.
  • Cognitive Distractions — These distractions take your mind off driving. Your focus shifts from what is in front of you to the task you are performing. For instance, talking on a cell phone or thinking about what you need to do at work can distract you from the traffic in front of you.

Any distraction can be deadly. However, activities that involve all three distractions are the most dangerous. Examples of activities that involve all three types of distractions include:

  • Texting while driving
  • Drinking or eating while driving
  • Grooming
  • Adjusting vehicle controls
  • Using a hand-held cell phone
  • Programming your GPS

Your vehicle can travel the length of a football field in a matter of seconds when traveling at 55 mph. That is a long distance to travel without looking at what is going on in front of your vehicle.

Smarter vehicles and devices are not the solution to the problem.

Technology is not the answer to the problem of distracted driving. Studies have shown that using voice-to-text can be more distracting than typing a text message. The best way to prevent distracted driving accidents is to avoid all activities that take your full attention away from the task of driving. When you are operating a motor vehicle, your full attention should be on driving. AAA Exchange has tips for preventing distracted driving on its website.

Filing a Distracted Driving Accident Claim and Proving Fault

When you are involved in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to recover compensation for the injuries and losses caused by the accident. In most cases, the driver’s insurance provider is responsible for compensating victims of the distracted driving accident. However, as with other insurance claims, you must prove the driver was responsible for causing the crash before you can recover money for your accident claim.

It can be very difficult to prove that a driver was distracted at the time of the crash. In some cases, cell phone records may indicate that a driver was using a mobile device in the seconds leading up to a crash. However, it may be impossible to prove that a driver was reaching for an object, grooming, distracted by passengers, or reading road signs at the time of the collision. Does that mean you cannot recover compensation for a distracted driving accident claim?

No, it does mean that you need assistance from an experienced California distracted driving accident attorney.

Investigating a Distracted Driving Accident

The attorneys of The Thompson Law Office conduct thorough accident investigations to determine the cause of the crash and gather evidence proving fault. By treating a distracted driving accident like other types of traffic accidents, we build a case proving the driver caused the collision. In some cases, we may have evidence proving the driver was distracted. However, the goal is to gather evidence proving the driver was responsible for causing the collision more than proving the driver was distracted.

For instance, a driver may fail to yield the right of way because he was reaching for his cell phone in the seat next to him. It may be impossible to prove that the driver caused the crash because he was reaching for an object. However, by using the evidence gathered at the accident scene, witness statements, and testimony from an accident reconstructionist, we can prove that the driver ran the red light.

Distracted driving accidents can be challenging, especially when the insurance company disputes liability. Our legal team has experience handling accident claims involving distracted drivers. We understand what is required to prove liability, and how to build a strong case to recover maximum compensation for damages.

Compensation Available for Distracted Driving Accident Victims

The compensation you may receive for a distracted driving crash depends on the facts of your case. As with most traffic accidents, victims are entitled to receive reimbursement for their financial losses. Also, victims may receive compensation for their non-economic or pain & suffering damages.

Examples of financial damages included in a distracted driving insurance claim include the cost of:

  • Emergency room care
  • Surgeries
  • Hospitalization
  • Physical therapy and occupational therapy
  • Doctors and physicians
  • Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications
  • Medical equipment
  • Travel expenses
  • Assistance with household chores
  • Personal care
  • Loss of income

In the case of a permanent impairment, you may also be entitled to receive compensation for future loss of income and ongoing medical care.

Examples of non-economic damages include:

  • Physical suffering and pain
  • Scarring
  • Permanent disabilities and impairments
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Emotional distress and mental anguish, including depression, PTSD, and anxiety
  • Loss of consortium

In the event someone dies in a distracted driving accident, the family may be entitled to compensation under California’s wrongful death statutes. A wrongful death action can provide compensation for the family to help pay living expenses. It can also give the family a measure of closure as they seek justice for their family and their loved one.

What Should You Do After a Distracted Driving Accident?

If you are involved in an accident with a distracted driver, it is important that you take steps to protect your legal rights. Steps to take after a distracted driving accident include:

  • Report the accident to the police immediately.
  • Do not admit fault or apologize for the accident. Avoid discussing the crash with anyone at the scene or with an insurance adjuster before you meet with a California car accident attorney.
  • Take pictures and make videos of the accident scene. If you are unable to do so, a witness may assist you, or you may want to call a friend or family member to help you.
  • Ask eyewitnesses for their names and contact information. Eyewitness testimony can help prove fault for a car crash.
  • Go to the emergency room or see your doctor as soon as possible after the crash. It is always wise to be checked by a physician after a crash. You also need to document your injuries for an insurance claim.
  • Avoid using social media or posting information online. A defense attorney may obtain this information, which could damage your case.
  • Carefully document your damages. Take photographs of your injuries during your recovery, keep copies of receipts and bills, make notes during all conversations regarding the accident, and keep notes about your pain and difficulty during recovery.

Contact a California Distracted Driving Accident Attorney!

As soon as possible, you need to consult with a personal injury attorney. The Thompson Law Office attorneys work closely with clients to document damages and assist clients in taking the steps necessary to file an insurance claim. We aggressively pursue injury claims.

Our legal team:

  • Investigates the crash;
  • Identifies liable parties;
  • Identifies all potential insurance coverage;
  • Gathers medical records and other evidence;
  • Works with expert witnesses;
  • Handles all communication with the insurance company;
  • Evaluates damages and calculates the maximum value for your claim;
  • Prepares a settlement demand package;
  • Negotiates a settlement with the insurance provider; and,
  • Files a personal injury lawsuit when necessary.

Our attorneys and team of legal professionals handle all aspects of your car accident claim so that you can focus on your recovery.

The Lawyers of The Thompson Law Office Fight for Your Best Interests

To schedule a free consultation with a California personal injury lawyer, contact our office by calling 1-650-513-6111. We want to help you hold the person who caused your injury liable for your injuries, damages, and losses.