Distracted driving is becoming an increasing concern on our roadways, and its consequences can be life-threatening. Smartphones and in-car screens place distractions—that far too many drivers find too interesting to turn away from—right at our fingertips, making our highways more dangerous. If a distracted driver injured you or someone you love, it’s time to reach out to an experienced car accident attorney.
You might think holding a distracted driver accountable should be simple, but it is not. Many people become frustrated by the process, which is especially difficult when dealing with injuries, car repairs, and more. Fortunately, this is not a process you must face alone, and having the right legal representation can help every step of the way.
Not only does a car accident lawyer handle the legal process, but they can often obtain a much better outcome than you might have alone. Timing is important. Never wait to seek the legal help you need after a distracted driving accident and resulting injuries. The sooner you seek a free case evaluation, the sooner you might receive total compensation for your injuries and losses.
Distracted Driving Defined
Distracted driving refers to being behind the wheel when one’s focus is on anything other than the task of driving safely.
An infinite number of distractions can take one’s attention from the road, including:
- Eating and drinking
- Personal grooming
- Fiddling with the car dials, including tuning in the radio and setting the temperature control
- Interacting with the GPS
- Zoning out
- Paying too much attention to road signs
- Chatting with passengers in the vehicle
- Turning around to take care of the kids in the backseat
- Reaching around to locate items floating around in the car
- Making calls
- Texting or engaging in another form of electronic communication
While there is no end to the distractions motorists can engage in, the most dangerous involve smartphones, which far too many motorists are unwilling to put away when driving.
The Sobering Statistics
No one has to tell you that distracted driving is dangerous, but the statistics on the topic clearly show how dangerous the practice is.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, in a recent year alone, 3,142 people lost their lives to the negligence of distracted drivers.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about nine people in this country lose their lives to distracted drivers daily.
- In one year, there were more than 3,100 distraction-related fatalities and about 420,000 distraction-related injuries on our roads (CDC).
- According to NHTSA, nine percent of all fatal traffic accidents, 15 percent of all injury-causing accidents, and 15 percent of all traffic accidents involved distracted driving.
- Six percent of the drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents had distractions at the time of the accident. This percentage rises to nine percent for drivers who are 15 to 20 years old.
- The National Safety Council (NSC) states there was a one percent increase in distraction-related traffic fatalities from last year.
- Motorists who manipulate handheld electronics behind the wheel increased 13 times in the past 17 years.
It is clear that distracted driving is on the rise and often proves deadly.
Texting Behind the Wheel
Texting behind the wheel takes distraction to an entirely new level.
NHTSA calls texting the most alarming distraction of all because:
- When you read or write a text, it takes about five seconds on average.
- When motorists travel at highway speeds, they might drive about the length of a football field in five seconds.
- When a motorist carves five seconds out of their driving time to read or write a text, that motorist travels about the length of a football field with what amounts to wearing blinders.
There are three basic categories of distraction:
- Distractions that engage your thoughts
- Distractions that engage your sight
- Distractions that engage your hands
Texting and other smartphone activities have the distinction of combining each of these categories of distraction into one life-threatening activity behind the wheel.
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Drivers Know Better
Research shows a distinct disconnect between drivers’ perceptions of distractions behind the wheel and their behaviors behind the wheel. According to FTS, taking one’s eyes off the road for as little as two seconds doubles one’s risk of crashing.
In FTS’s latest annual respondent survey (used to identify motorist’s attitudes and behaviors), 95 percent of people deemed reading a text or another form of electronic communication behind the wheel extremely dangerous. 96 percent deemed writing a text or another form of electronic communication behind the wheel extremely dangerous.
Drivers are well aware of the immense risk involved with texting while driving, ranking it with drunk driving and drowsy driving in terms of the risk factor involved.
While the belief system is in place, far too many drivers fail to put their beliefs into practice.
- About 23 percent of drivers surveyed admitted to reading or writing a text at least once in the previous month.
- About 37 percent of drivers admitted to talking on the phone at least once in the month prior.
- About 34 percent of drivers admitted to reading something else on their smartphones at least once in the month prior.
Further, FTS found that, although in-car information systems like Apple’s CarPlay can help cut down on driver distraction, they can also exacerbate the problem.
The Losses Associated with Distracted Driving
While no two distracted driving accident claims ever look exactly alike, the resulting damages generally fall into four primary categories, and each is critical to obtaining the compensation you deserve.
Property Damage to Your Vehicle
If you suffered serious injuries because of a distracted driver, your vehicle is likely not at the top of your priorities, which makes perfect sense. However, you must include property damage to your vehicle in your claim. Even a relatively minor accident can quickly total a car, and more serious accidents are more likely to total your car than not.
Your Medical Expenses
The injuries you sustain from a driver's distraction can be overwhelming, and your medical bills will reflect this.
Common medical expenses include:
- Emergency medical care at the scene of the accident and your ambulance ride to the hospital
- Surgery and aftercare
- Hospital stays and possibly the intensive care unit (ICU)
- Medical treatments, care, and testing
- Ongoing treatment and care from doctors, specialists, and other medical professionals
- Physical therapy and occupational therapy
- Pain management that can include holistic approaches such as chiropractic care
- Prescription medications
- Medical devices that offer physical aid, such as walkers, wheelchairs, and more
- Adaptations that render one’s home or car more accessible
This list can go on and on. The most important point about medical expenses is that you may not have the complete picture until considerable time has passed. Serious injuries often require ongoing medical care and can also lead to secondary health concerns that require medical attention.
In other words, if the insurance company handling your car accident claim gets back to you with an early settlement offer, it’s very likely a ploy to finalize your claim before you’re fully aware of just how extensive your injuries are.
Your Lost Income
After an injury from a distracted driving crash, your recovery may take much longer than expected. You’ll likely be off the job, which can affect your income. These decreased earnings can be even more profound if your future earning potential is also at stake.
Calculating the value of many years of earning less - or not working - can be immense. To make matters even more challenging, a loss of this kind can lead to emotional damage from personal stock many of us invest in our careers. It can be difficult to overstate the effects that losses relating to your career can have in your life.
Your Physical and Emotional Pain and Suffering
The physical pain and suffering you suffer due to another driver’s distraction can prove overwhelming. You take the responsibility of driving seriously, but because another driver did not, you’ve suffered serious injuries. The psychological consequences of your situation can be difficult to overcome, and you should not minimize them.
The emotional pain and suffering experienced by car accident victims can take many forms, including:
- Increased anxiety
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fear of driving
- Social isolation
The Insurance Company
The insurance company that handles your claim should provide full payment. Still, the company’s primary motivation is profits, which makes it important not to accept a settlement offer before discussing it with a car accident attorney who is well-acquainted with your distracted driving claim. In addition to making early, lowball settlement offers, insurance companies often use many less-than-fair practices to keep their payouts low.
Outright Claim Denials
Sometimes, insurance companies will deny claims right from the start, hoping the vulnerable accident victims who file them will give up and go away. It is very important to understand, however, that the law—not the insurance company—ultimately dictates when claimants like you are entitled to compensation, and your dedicated car accident attorney will work closely with you to help ensure that your claim is strong and that your rights are well-protected.
If your attorney believes you have a viable claim, they may recommend you file a lawsuit against the involved insurance company. Simply filing your case may motivate the insurance company to engage in more meaningful negotiations.
The insurance company handling your claim may attempt to shift the blame away from the distracted driver (their client) and toward you. Our attorneys will identify and skillfully challenge this tactic. In the end, the insurance company recognizes that you are dealing with difficult injuries and are extremely vulnerable, and it may take advantage of your vulnerability.
Holding firm against the insurance company’s slights can be difficult, but it’s the only way to obtain just compensation that addresses your losses in their entirety, and an accomplished car accident attorney who has considerable experience successfully guiding distracted driving claims toward favorable resolutions can help you with that.
A Prolonged Process
The car accident claims process is long enough and challenging enough to begin with, and if the insurance company decides to drag the process out for its own reasons, it can mean the final straw for some claimants. At some point, the process can begin to feel hopeless, and the insurance company is banking on that. There are laws on the books against practices such as artificially prolonging the insurance process, however, and your savvy car accident attorney will fight to help ensure that your claim proceeds smoothly forward.
Denial of Damages
Another practice some unscrupulous car insurance companies use is denying the claimant’s damages in full.
Your total losses are supported by evidence in the form of medical bills, pay stubs, and much more, but there are things you can do to help thwart the insurance company’s attempts to deny your claimed damages, including:
- Follow your doctor’s orders carefully (it’s important to your recovery, and you don’t want the insurance company to think you don’t take your injuries seriously)
- Allow your car accident attorney to speak to the insurance company on your behalf and to negotiate on behalf of your claim (the insurance company is skilled at obtaining damaging statements from clients)
- Skip the social media posts until your claim resolves (it’s too easy to accidentally provide the insurance company with ammunition to use against your claim)
Consult with an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today
A trusted car accident lawyer with a wealth of experience handling distracted driving claims is well-positioned to help you and protect your rights. Every driver should know the dangers of distractions, and drivers who cause crashes should also be responsible for the losses of victims
Reach out for more information today about whether you have a case and find the right lawyer for your situation.