Texting and Driving Laws in California
Texting while driving is quite possibly the most dangerous type of driver distraction. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has discovered that a car accident is 23 times more likely to occur when the driver is texting. Another mind-blowing statistic is that the NHTSA found that 30 percent of all car wrecks happen from drivers who admitted to be texting immediately before the accident. Take note, that this is just the drivers that actual admitted they were texting right before an accident. At the Virginia Tech Driving Institute, their research stated that the minimum amount of time a driver is distracted from driving while texting is five seconds. If a car is going 60 miles per hour, it can travel over a hundred yards in a mere five seconds. That’s the same size as a professional soccer field. Needless to say, a lot can happen in a few seconds while texting behind the wheel of an automobile. As one would imagine the number of personal injury claims and lawsuits have grown exponentially with texting and driving accidents.
Who is Liable in a Texting and Driving Accident?
A driver who causes an auto accident due to texting and driving is legally liable for the damages they caused. All states, including California impose upon each and every driver a legal duty of care or obligation toward other motorists. This entails that all drivers must look out for the safety of other drivers. When a driver is involved in distractive conduct by texting and driving, that driver violates his duty of care to the other auto drivers. This breach of duty is known as negligence. The driver’s negligence results in an accident and therefore that driver becomes liable for the damages and injuries he causes. The victim of the accident is then entitled to compensation for all the damages resulting from the accident.
If a texting driver is found liable, then traditionally the court will decide what recoverable damages are to be awarded to the victim. These reasonable damages include property damages, medical bills, out of pocket expenses, and pain and suffering damages. Property damages usually include the cost to repair the vehicle or the fair market value for the automobile if it is totaled. Property damages can include personal property that may have been damaged due to the accident such as computers, clothing or other personal items. The medical damages are usually emergency room costs, recovery costs, hospital and doctor bills, and continuing therapy or rehabilitation services. The out of pocket expenses can be rental car costs, medications, or at home nursing care. Lastly, pain and suffering can be compensated for as well. This is not always the easiest to fight for but can include mental anguish, emotional stress, or other intangible losses.
Understanding liability and negligence is key to navigating a California texting and driving auto accident case. However, being able to prove negligence is entirely another thing. The victim of an accident must prove the driver’s negligence was responsible for the resulting damages. Within the court system this is known as direct and proximate cause. This means that the victim must prove that the irresponsible driver’s negligence directly caused the accident and the damages. Having proof that the at fault driver was texting while operating their vehicle will likely gain success for the victim’s personal injury claim. All states’ laws on driving and cell phone use differ so be sure to look specifically at your state’s statutes. In the state of California, drivers are prohibited from using handheld phones while driving. The phone must have “hands free” settings, and not obstruct the view through the front windshield. If the driver that caused the accident was texting and driving, then the law can consider his violation as evidence of guilt. Be sure to explain to responding officers that the driver was in fact texting. If the officers are convinced that the at fault driver was texting they may write the driver a citation. A citation within the police report of the accident will greatly help in proving the at fault driver’s negligence.
What to Do If You’re in a Texting and Driving Accident in California
When dealing with large urban cities, the police usually only respond to critical accidents where injuries or the accident site itself poses danger to other drivers or pedestrians. However, no matter the size of the accident, always contact the police. Police will survey the area and the accident scene. They will aid in dispatching medical care if needed, and will take witnesses’ information. If witnesses saw the driver on his cell phone the police will try to confirm the allegations. Be sure that if you believe that the other driver was on their phone you let the police know. The more details within the police report the better chance of compensation from the at fault driver. Always ask for a copy of the police report for your own personal records and share it with your legal counsel. Remember to take photographs of the accident scene and all the damages. Photographs can often show the point of impact, traffic signs that might have been ignored, injuries obtained etc. If the accident scene is busy or hectic be sure to write down witnesses’ information and their statements for your own records. Many times, police do not have the time in the middle of a chaotic accident scene to speak to everyone involved.
Another good tip is to obtain the at fault drivers cell phone records. The driver’s phone company is the only one who can release these records, but through a court order they have to comply. This can be one of the greatest pieces of evidence in a distracted driving case. Most cell phone companies can distinguish in their records whether the user was texting or speaking. The cell phone records can also show the date, place, and time of a call or text. If you file a claim, you can ask the court to issue a subpoena to produce the documents from the driver’s cell phone company. The process is usually free and is pretty simple, plus if you have retained an attorney they will do it as part of their services.
Along with phone records and witnesses’ statements you’ll want to keep all medical bills and treatment records. Remember that injuries often do not show up immediately following an accident so always get checked out by your doctor. Emergency room treatment can often prove that injuries were directly linked to the auto accident. This is an example of evidence that shows direct and proximate cause. If you delay treatment for your injuries, then the insurance company may try to argue that your injuries were preexisting.
Have You Been Injured in an Accident Caused By Texting and Driving?
Obtaining a professional attorney is always a good idea when dealing with an auto accident claim. This is even more important when your injuries are major. If you have broken bones, head trauma, scarring, internal bleeding or injuries that require hospital care then gaining a knowledgeable attorney is a must. Attorneys can do extensive pretrial discovery. This means they can have access to all the documents from the other side and will take depositions of everyone. A detailed attorney will speak with all the witnesses, police officers, doctors, and others who may have knowledge about the accident or the at fault driver. Injury claims can be quite difficult to navigate without the help of a professional. Our experienced car accident legal staff in Riverside, California is here to answer your questions and guide you step by step through the legal process. We will work hard for you and your loved ones to make sure you gain the proper compensation for your auto accident claim.