Texting behind the wheel can greatly increase your chances of causing a crash. Texting and driving slows reaction time, meaning avoiding mistakes others make, obstacles in the road, or other hazards is more difficult. By distracting you from focusing on driving, texting and other handheld phone use often proves risky.
If you suffer injuries in a collision caused by a texting driver, a car accident lawyer will know how to build a case against them to seek compensation based on your expenses and losses. Your options could depend on applicable state laws, the insurance coverage available, and other factors.
Studies Show Texting and Driving Is More Dangerous Than Drunk Driving
Studies have shown texting slows reaction time more than drunk or drugged driving. These data are particularly shocking to many since years of research have demonstrated the significant dangers of drunk driving.
Slowed Reaction Time
One study the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) conducted published the following results about slowed reaction time:
- Drinking to the legal limit: 12 percent slower
- After using cannabis: 21 percent slower
- Texting: 35 percent slower
A Texas A&M Transportation Institute experiment showed a similar decline in reaction time with texting. This experiment used a test track with participants behind the wheel. Researchers asked them to react to a periodic flashing light on the track.
This study found:
- Drivers with their attention on the road reacted in one to two seconds.
- While texting and driving, they reacted in three to four seconds.
- Texting drivers were more than 11 times more likely to miss the light and not react at all.
Types of Distracted Driving
There are reasons why there is such a dramatic change in reaction time, and it all comes down to distractions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drivers face three primary types of distractions:
- Visual: Anything that takes your eyes off the road and traffic around you, even if you believe you are glancing away for a very short time
- Manual: Anything that takes one or both hands off the steering wheel, including eating, reaching for items, or answering the phone
- Cognitive: Anything that takes your mind off driving, even for a few seconds
Texting requires reading, considering the response, and typing a combination of all three types of distractions. When texting, drivers take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, and their minds off the task. That results in a considerable time when their focus is not on driving, reacting to hazards, and preventing collisions. Instead, they are much more likely to violate traffic laws and cause crashes.
This distraction also applies to other similar distractions that involve reading a smartphone screen, such as checking email, using social media, searching for music, or even entering an address into the GPS.
Distracted Driving Cases Are Likely Dramatically Under-Reported
Each year, distracted driving causes property damage, injuries, and fatal crashes. However, there is reason to believe these numbers are dramatically higher than they appear. Texting and driving, handheld cell phone use, and other device-related actions seem to occur everywhere. A quick glance inside other cars on the interstate will tell you how common this behavior is.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one recent year ended with:
- 3,100 distracted driving deaths
- 424,000 distracted driving injuries
In all, these data include nine percent of all fatal crashes and 15 percent of injury collisions. At the same time, about 15 percent of all police reports listed distracted driving as a contributing factor. This is a significant number but likely much lower than the true total because distracted driving is difficult to prove.
Without an admission or eyewitness, there is often no evidence to show what was happening in the moments before the collision. The actual total of distracted driving incidents could be much higher than 15 percent.
Distracted Driving and Your Insurance Claim
You must know that you likely do not have to prove that distracted driving occurred to recover compensation in a collision case. Evidence showing that the driver was texting just before the crash will support your insurance claim or lawsuit but is not strictly necessary since it can be so difficult to prove.
When you work with an attorney, they will know the evidence necessary to show the at-fault driver caused the crash and hold them legally responsible. They likely know how to obtain evidence, when available, to document the driver was using their cell phone. However, it is not always needed.
Distracted Driving and Non-Occupant Injuries
Another alarming trend involves how many of the victims of texting drivers are non-occupants, meaning they were not in a vehicle at the time of the crash. These people include pedestrians, cyclists, and children riding skateboards or roller skates. According to the NHTSA, about one out of every five deaths from distracted driving was a non-occupant.
Those on foot or bicycles are easier to overlook than a car. When a driver looks at their phone for a second or two, they miss seeing things around them. Their hands, eyes, and mind are not fully focused on the task ahead, and they likely miss key details. Unfortunately, these victims could include pedestrians, cyclists, children playing, and more.
Drivers are legally responsible for these injuries in the same way they are for other distracted driving collisions. When a car hits a pedestrian, the injuries are much more likely to be catastrophic or deadly. Recovering compensation for the damages suffered in these crashes is essential for helping the victim get the ongoing care and support they need to recuperate to the fullest extent possible.
What Causes Distracted Driving Crashes?
According to the research conducted at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, texting and driving causes crashes in several ways. While a slowed reaction time does significantly affect a driver’s ability to see a hazard and avoid it, other issues could occur, too.
A texting driver is much less likely to maintain the proper position in their lane and hold a constant speed while reading or typing a text or making a handheld phone call.
Other significant areas of impairment they identified include:
- They could not maintain their position between barrels on the course.
- They tended to swerve significantly more in the open sections of the course.
- They tended to slow down while using their phone.
- Their speed varied much more while texting.
Slowing down seems like a good idea. Driving slower gives more time to react to hazards and allows them to better handle multiple tasks behind the wheel. However, speed variance under many circumstances increases the risk of a collision. For example, picking up the phone to read a text while driving on the interstate could lead to a collision because of dramatically slowing speeds.
Of course, the failure to see and react to hazards and maintain a lane without swerving are more significant problems. Texting causes many issues with safe driving practices that we can easily address by simply waiting until after arrival to check the phone and respond to messages.
Building a Case to Hold the Texting Driver Accountable for Your Crash
When texting drivers cause a collision, the victims generally pursue fault-based claims or lawsuits to hold them accountable for their actions. These cases require them to show the other driver acted carelessly or recklessly, caused the crash, and it led to their injuries. Without evidence to show what happened, they cannot hold the distracted driver legally responsible and recover fair compensation.
Many victims choose to work with a personal injury law firm on their crash cases. Attorneys know what it takes to get a fair payout, and they have the experience and resources to build a strong case. They conduct an investigation into what occurred and use the evidence to pursue the money their client deserves.
The evidence in a texting and driving crash could include:
- Official police crash reports
- Eyewitness interviews
- Crash reconstruction
- Crash scene survey
- Photos and videos
- Relevant medical records
- Expert testimony
- Documentation of damages
Once they have strong evidence to support their allegation that the other driver caused the crash, they will:
- Demand fair compensation from that driver’s insurance company,
- Sue the at-fault driver, or
- Pursue both options concurrently
While many cases settle outside of court, attorneys prepare each case like it might need to go to trial. This approach results in a compelling argument to show the at-fault driver was negligent and bears liability. It is important to understand that proving the driver was texting is not necessary. It could help the case, but many crash victims win financial awards and settlements without any evidence to show the driver was distracted at the time of the crash.
Some States Require No-Fault Insurance Coverage
Some states have laws that require drivers to carry no-fault auto insurance policies, sometimes called personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. While this insurance is the minority of states with these laws, it could dramatically affect the way your collision claim works in a crash case. It might make it difficult to hold the texting driver accountable.
While the way these policies work varies from state to state, they generally allow victims to file a claim quickly following a crash and recover damages without needing to show what happened or build a case against the other driver. Even if the policyholder caused the crash, they will recover compensation.
However, PIP policies typically only pay for basic expenses and losses, such as:
- Medical bills to date
- A portion of lost income
- Mileage to doctor visits
There is no option for recovering pain and suffering or expenses beyond the policy’s coverage. However, these laws generally offer a way for some qualifying crash victims to pursue a fault-based case. This route could allow them to recover additional compensation and hold the texting driver accountable for their reckless behavior.
These laws vary widely. In some states, the victim will sue if their injuries qualify as serious based on the applicable laws. Others have the option if their bills exceed their PIP policy limits. An attorney will explain how your no-fault coverage works and your legal options if you live in a state that requires this type of coverage.
Deadline for Suing an At-Fault Driver
When a lawsuit is necessary, victims must meet certain deadlines. They are generally one to four years following the crash. They depend greatly on state laws and the circumstances of what happened. There are also exceptions to the statute of limitations in many states.
For example, imagine there is generally a three-year deadline for beginning a lawsuit based on a crash injury. If the at-fault driver was a municipal employee on the job, it could greatly reduce how long you have to act.
Because of the possible exceptions to these deadlines, contacting a law firm as soon as your injuries are stable is the best option for crash victims. This allows them to assess your case and any applicable timelines as soon as possible.
Connect With a Collision Law Firm for Help With Your Case Today
If a texting driver caused your crash and injuries, working with an attorney familiar with these cases could be a good way to hold them accountable and recover money to pay your bills and cover your losses. Most personal injury lawyer in Long Island provide free consultations for crash victims. During this consultation, they will assess your case and discuss the next steps in pursuing a fair payout.
Contact a law firm about your options as soon as your injuries allow. You must meet deadlines, and getting the support and guidance of a lawyer as early as possible could protect your right to sue if needed.