California traffic laws state that it is unlawful to engage in distracted driving. These laws impose fines on individuals caught driving distractedly.
Despite the existence of these laws, distracted driving remains a leading cause of auto accidents in California. Due to distracted driving, numerous lives have been lost, and many individuals have sustained severe bodily injuries and incurred property damage.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released data showing that distracted driving is a significant cause of fatalities in auto accidents. In 2018, approximately 2,841 people were killed in distracted driving auto accidents.
Victims of distracted driving car accidents in Los Angeles usually face a hard time obtaining fair compensation. This is because insurance companies are fond of downplaying the magnitude of their injuries and suffering.
We at the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney have extensive experience helping victims of distracted driving auto accidents get fair compensation. We know how to aggressively negotiate with insurers to make them yield to our demands. We are also not hesitant towards filing a personal injury lawsuit if an insurance company remains adamant about paying you what you deserve.
If you or your loved one has been injured in an auto-accident involving distracted driving, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We are here to help you.
What is Distracted Driving?
Motorists should have full concentration when driving. Distracted driving is any form of activity that can divert the motorist’s attention while driving. Distracted driving will make the motorist lose concentration and focus while on the road.
When driving, motorists should not engage in any other activity. If they do so, they may cause an accident.
You or your loved one may have gotten into an accident involving distracted driving. Distracted driving may seem to be a trivial problem. However, according to the NHTSA, it is one of the leading causes of auto accidents in the United States.
Distracted Driving Statistics
As per the NHTSA, distracted driving claimed approximately 2,841 lives in 2018. Among those who died, there were 1,730 drivers, 77 bicyclists, 400 pedestrians, and 600 passengers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that approximately nine people die and over 1000 individuals are injured daily in distracted driving accidents. In 2016, approximately 3,450 lives were lost in auto accidents caused by a distracted driver. Distracted Driver Accidents affirms that 421,000 people are injured annually in distracted driving accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), nearly 80% of accidents involve driver inattention just three seconds before the crash.
There are different forms of distraction. Texting is the most common one, especially among teenagers.
End Distracted Driving asserts that 15% of injury crashes and 10% of fatal car accidents involved distracted driving. Often, accidents involving distracted driving are unreported. In 2015, cell phone users accounted for approximately 27% of the total number of auto-accidents. Also, around 3,477 people died this year, and 391,000 individuals were injured in distracted driving car accidents.
Teens are more vulnerable to getting into accidents involving distracted driving, in comparison to adults. Distracted driving accounts for over 58% of crashes involving teenagers. Parents have a crucial role to play to prevent these accidents. Teenagers whose parents practice distracted driving are up to four times as likely to drive while distracted.
Types of Driving Distractions
Generally, driving distractions emanate from four different sources:
- Associated with the car – These are features inside the car that can distract the person driving. They may include car displays, navigation systems, and controls.
- Brought into the car – Often, these are personal possessions that the car owner carries along when driving. Some examples include grooming aids, cell phones, animals, food, and computers.
- External to the car – These are roadside features that the driver encounters while on the road. These features may divert his/her attention.
- Internal in the driver's mind – When a person daydreams or becomes lost in thought while driving, he/she is more prone to getting into an accident.
There are four types of driving distractions: visual, cognitive, auditory, and manual. Here is a brief discussion of each of them:
- Visual Distractions - These distractions take the driver’s eyes off the road. As a result, the driver focuses elsewhere.
- Cognitive Distractions - Cognitive distractions can make the driver lose focus and concentration. As a result, he/she can easily cause an accident.
- Auditory Distractions - Sounds and noises inside the car can make the driver distracted. For instance, if a child passenger is crying, the driver will not fully focus.
- Manual Distractions - Manual distractions will cause the driver to remove his/her hands from the steering wheel. Some examples of manual distractions include changing the music track, eating and drinking, and checking the GPS.
Top Ten Forms of Driving Distractions
There are numerous forms of driving distractions. According to Safe Start, the top 10 forms of driving distractions include:
- Smoking - 1% of accidents occur when a driver becomes distracted by lighting or putting out a cigarette or smoking. These activities make the driver lose focus and concentration while driving, increasing the risk of a crash.
- Moving Objects - Moving objects, such as pets and insects, account for 1% of auto accidents in the United States. These moving objects divert the driver's attention off from the road.
- Using Devices to Control the Car - Surprisingly, if a driver adjusts things like mirrors or seatbelts while behind the wheel, he/she can easily cause a crash. These activities contribute up to 1% of the total number of car accidents in the United States.
- Adjusting Climate and Audio Controls - Approximately 2% of the total number of auto accidents in the United States occur when a driver adjusts his/her climate or audio controls. Even just a minute of adjusting the A/C or fiddling with the radio can cause an accident.
- Drinking or Eating - Motor vehicle drivers may feel hungry or thirsty while driving and reach out for a drink or snack. This may seem to be an innocent act, but drinking and eating while driving are
- Using or Reaching for an Item Brought into the Vehicle - When a driver uses an item while behind the wheel, he/she can easily cause an accident. For instance, motorists should not apply make-up while driving.
- Other Occupants - Car passengers can distract motor vehicle drivers. Motorists should avoid conversing with passengers while behind the wheel since this will take their minds off the road.
- Outside Event, Object, or Person - Distractions due to external events, objects, or individuals cause 7 % of auto accidents in the United States. Motorists can be involved in crashes if they look at someone else inside their cars or admire roadside scenery.
- Cell Phone Use - Cell phone use is the second leading form of distraction in the United States. It accounts for up to 12% of the total number of car accidents.
- Becoming Lost in Thoughts - Getting lost in thoughts or becoming generally distracted while driving is the top-most form of distraction in the United States. It accounts for approximately 62% of the total number of car accidents.
Distracted Driving vs. Drunk Driving
There are several causes of auto-accidents, but drunk driving and distracted driving stand out. This is because they are deemed to be the leading causes of car crashes.
Both drunk driving and distracted driving can make the motorist be physically impaired. Both of them remove the drivers' focus off from the road and delay the reaction time. They also inhibit the driver's ability to make crucial decisions while driving. All these increase the risk of an accident.
Although both distracted driving and drunk driving are dangerous, drunk driving is more dangerous than distracted driving. According to The Zebra, 29 people die in DUI accidents each day, while approximately nine people lose their lives daily in distracted driving crashes. Each year, intoxicated driving claims over 10,000 lives, while distracted driving claims approximately 3,500 lives.
Both drunk driving and distracted driving increase the risk of an accident, regardless of what statistics show. As such, you deserve compensation if you are injured in an accident caused by these two.
What to Do If you get into a Distracted Driving Car Accident
No one plans on getting into an auto accident. However, if you do so, there are specific steps that you should take to protect yourself.
The first step that you should take is to seek medical treatment. Even if you believe that you came out perfectly fine, you should still visit a doctor for a medical check-up. This is because some car accident injuries take several weeks or a couple of months to manifest themselves.
If possible, you should take photos and videos of the car accident scene. If, for example, you saw the other driver with an open box of make-up, you should clearly capture him/her. These photos and videos will help you to prove your claim when filing for compensation. You should also jot down the personal information of other people present at the accident scene, including witnesses.
You should never admit fault after getting into an accident, even if you believe that you should be held responsible. Do not apologize for anything. This is because the at-fault party can use these admissions of responsibility against you to deny liability.
To obtain compensation, you must file a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault party. As a general rule, you should never accept the first offer of settlement that the insurance company proposes. Most insurance companies are fond of downplaying car accident injuries, and they will most likely offer you the least possible amount of money as compensation.
The best step that you should take to obtain fair compensation is to hire a reliable car accident attorney. If the insurance company remains adamant about paying you what you deserve, he/she will institute a personal injury lawsuit.
What Happens in a Distracted Driving Car Accident Lawsuit?
The first stage you will have to go through after you have filed your lawsuit is the 'discovery' stage. During this stage, you and the defendant will exchange crucial information with each other about the case. You will need to provide to the defendant facts that you intend to rely on to win your case, including written descriptions on the cause of the accident, the physical injuries you sustained, and the amount of money you would like to get as compensation. This way, both of you will have a clear overview of the unique facts pertinent to the case.
After the discovery stage, the judge can order both of you to undergo mediation. During mediation, a third party – referred to as a mediator, will help you and the defendant to agree. If you agree, the judge will dismiss the case.
If you disagree, the judge will arrange for a trial hearing. As the plaintiff, you will be expected to prove the defendant’s liability during this hearing.
According to California civil laws, the plaintiff has the right to begin. Therefore, you or your attorney will produce evidence to prove your case before the defendant. Once you have proven your case, the defendant will be asked to exonerate himself/herself.
The jury will listen to both of you and determine who wins the case. If the jury members believe that the defendant should be held liable, they will also calculate the amount of damages he/she should pay.
Distracted driving lawsuits can last for a couple of weeks to several months. Not all lawsuits reach the trial stage. The judge may dismiss some of them, and others may come to an end through mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods.
In some situations, the jury may not rule in your favor. In such a situation, you can institute an appeal to overturn the jury’s decision.
Generally, distracted driving lawsuits are lengthy and expensive. They should be the last resort to obtain compensation if the insurance company remains adamant about paying you what you deserve.
You need to be overly aggressive when pursuing compensation. You have to fight until you win. Do not make a mistake of accepting an unreasonable amount of money as compensation and refraining from instituting a car accident lawsuit, no matter how lengthy and hectic the process may seem.
As per California’s Statute of Limitations, you should institute a car accident lawsuit within three years from the date when the accident occurred. If you do not institute a lawsuit within this timeframe, you will lose your legal right to seek compensation.
Proving Liability in a Distracted Driving Car Accident Lawsuit
When you hire a personal injury attorney, he/she will first enter into negotiations with the at-fault party's insurance company. If you have hired a competent and diligent personal injury attorney, he/she will only accept fair compensation from the insurer. He/she will represent you aggressively and protect your legal rights.
The insurance company will require you to prove your claim. This is why it is crucial to take basic information about the people present at the accident scene, including witnesses, photos, and videos.
If the insurance company does not offer you fair compensation, your attorney will institute a car accident lawsuit. To win this lawsuit, you will be required to prove the following three elements:
- The defendant had a duty to care.
- The defendant breached this duty.
- You sustained physical injuries due to the breach.
Note that all motorists in California have a duty to care. This means that they have a legal obligation to protect the safety and wellbeing of other road users. A motorist who has engaged in distracted driving has breached this duty to care.
The court will require you to demonstrate how the defendant was driving distractedly. To do this, you can show the court that the defendant was multitasking while driving. For instance, you can assert that the driver was texting while behind the wheel when the accident occurred.
Finally, you will have to link your injuries to the driver’s negligent actions. You must tell the court the exact physical injuries you suffered. Your attorney can help you bring along your doctor to testify that you indeed sustained physical injuries.
Take note that the standard of proof in California personal injury cases is on a balance of probability. If you attain this standard, the court will award you damages.
Sometimes, the defendant can admit liability but assert that you also contributed to the accident’s occurrence. For instance, he/she can tell the court that you broke a particular traffic law. In such a situation, the court will find you partially liable. However, even if you will be held partially liable for the crash, you can still obtain compensation under California’s contributory negligence laws.
Damages in Distracted Driving Car Accident Lawsuits
You will win your case if you provide sufficient evidence to show that the at-fault motorist was driving distractedly. When you win your case, the court can award you up to three types of damages. The insurance company of the at-fault driver will be legally responsible for paying these damages. These damages include:
- Special damages
- General damages
- Punitive damages
Special damages cover the financial expenses that you incurred due to the accident, including medical bills. They cover lost wages too.
General damages compensate for losses that cannot be expressed in monetary terms. They can cover pain and suffering, mental anguish, depression, and loss of consortium.
The court rarely awards punitive damages in distracted driving lawsuits. They can only be awarded in situations where the defendant acted in blatant disregard of human life. Their primary aim is to punish the defendant for his/her reprehensible conduct.
Distracted Driving Wrongful Death Lawsuits
You may have lost a loved one in a distracted driving car accident. If you are in this situation, you should institute a wrongful death lawsuit for the court to award you damages.
According to California's wrongful death laws, surviving family members can sue to obtain compensation if their loved ones died due to another person or group's negligence. The standard and burden of proof in wrongful death lawsuits are similar to that for personal injury lawsuits.
If you win the wrongful death lawsuit, the court can award damages to cover the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost earnings
- Future lost earnings
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
What to Do to Win your Case
The best step that you should take to win your case is to hire a personal injury attorney. Discuss with him/her about the accident, the injuries you sustained, and the financial expenses you incurred.
Ask your lawyer any questions you might have about seeking compensation. Also, let him/her evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
The American Insurance Research Council affirms that car accidents victims who hire personal injury attorneys are more likely to receive fair compensation than those who don't. In a distracted driving car accident lawsuit, it may be difficult to make the at-fault motorist admit liability. The at-fault motorist can easily deny that he/she did not cause the crash, especially if there is little evidence to show that he/she was driving while distracted. If you are a victim of a distracted driving car accident, you will require a competent personal injury attorney to help you pursue compensation.
Various deadly mistakes can make you lose your case. Some of these mistakes include:
- Failing to take immediate action while at the car accident scene to protect your legal rights
- Not keeping your medical records properly.
- Speaking to the insurance company without consulting a personal injury attorney
- Delaying to institute a car accident lawsuit
- Not being honest with your lawyer.
If you make any of these mistakes, you reduce the chances of winning your case. As a result, you may not receive fair compensation.
Find a Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney Near Me
Get in touch with us if you or your loved one has been injured in a distracted driving car accident. We will provide aggressive legal representation to help you get fair compensation.
Call the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney today at 424-237-3600 for a free consultation. We are available 24/7.