A significant percentage of accidents in California are a result of distracted driving. When a driver is distracted, he or she is not only a danger to themselves but everyone using the road. Distraction while driving makes a driver unfocused, and often leads to accidents. Most people think that the use of cell phones is the only cause of distracted driving. However, there are many reasons a driver can be distracted, as we will discuss further below. Distractions can be visual, manual, or cognitive, and regardless of the type of distraction, the consequences can be detrimental.
When an accident occurs due to distracted driving, victims can suffer significant injuries and even death. If you are in Los Angeles and are involved in an accident, we invite you to contact us at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm. We are experienced in helping victims of car accidents to seek compensation.
Causes of Distracted Driving
The highways of California are filled with many vehicles, and to drive on them, one must be alert at all times. Any driver can be distracted and cause an accident. As earlier mentioned, the causes of distraction can be categorized into three groups: cognitive, manual, and visual distractions. In these groups, there are various causes of distractions, as we will discuss below.
Manual distractions cause a driver to remove their hands from the steering wheel momentarily. Some of these include:
- Use of cell phones – many accidents have been caused by drivers texting or calling with a handheld device. This will often distract a driver that will be focusing on the text message or making a call.
- Fiddling with the radio – adjusting or changing the radio station has also been reported as a significant contributor to road accidents. When a driver is focused on adjusting the station, they often focus on the activity at hand. By the time they realize something on the road that requires an emergency response, it is often too late to avoid an accident.
- CD changing – just like changing the station on the radio, changing a CD in a car causes similar distractions and can result in an accident.
- Drinking and eating – the habit of eating or drinking while driving is common and results in serious accidents.
- Using makeup – shifting your attention from driving to applying makeup often results in crashes that could have been avoided.
This involves an activity that takes the driver’s eyes from the road. Apart from their eyes getting distracted, some require the driver to use their hands as well. Some of these distractions include:
- Checking the GPS – driving to a place you do not know may require the use of GPS to get directions. A driver can focus on the GPS and momentarily get distracted from driving. This can result in a crash, yet the driver could have prevented it had he or she pulled over and looked at the GPS.
- Focusing on the screen – some drivers have installed screens in their vehicles. When the screen is on, one can easily be distracted by focusing on the activities taking place on the screen. Again, they remove their eyes from the road, which can lead to an accident.
- Texting – A driver needs to be sure the text they are writing communicates the message they are conveying and will focus on the phone’s screen. Receiving a text and reading it while driving is also distracting.
- Choosing a song – a driver may decide to select a song they want to listen to as they drive. This often will divide their attention while some may focus on getting the song they want. This act would cause them to focus on song selection and forget to look at the road.
This is when a driver’s mind is distracted and unable to concentrate on driving. There are different causes of cognitive distraction. They include:
- Daydreaming – a driver could be having a lot on their mind, and their minds get distracted by thinking of the various things they need to accomplish. This often takes their mind off the road and can result in serious accidents.
- Stress – a driver going through a stressful period may not have their mind concentrated on driving.
- Intoxicated driving – a driver under the influence gets their mind distracted or impaired to drive. A drugged or drunk driver is unable to focus on the road because their mental abilities to comprehend their surroundings are impaired.
- Fatigue – an excessively tired driver may find their mind shutting off or falling asleep on the wheel. This is dangerous to other road users, as well as the driver.
Almost every driver has been distracted by one thing or another on the road. However, there are a few practices one can adopt to enable them to focus on driving and avoid distractions. Some of these will require a driver to practice self-discipline to avoid being distracted. These practices may include:
- Avoid using your cell phone to call or text unless it is an emergency. It is best to pull over and use the phone if it is necessary. Alternatively, it is best to use a hands-free device to receive and make calls instead. With the advancement of technology, a driver can give instructions to the device on whom to call or receive a call from and even dictate a text message.
- Avoid driving while tired. Instead, get enough rest before getting on the road. Fatigue is common in commercial drivers that want to drive for long hours to improve their income. The law provides for the time a driver should be on the road and the periods of rest. Your body needs to rest to avoid being fatigued on the road.
- Avoid driving while drowsy or impaired. Whether you are impaired from prescription medicine or alcohol, driving while impaired is not only an offense, but it can result in serious crashes.
- Stop drinking or eating while driving. This habit is prevalent among drivers when they want to kill two birds with one stone. Unfortunately, the practice can be detrimental when an accident occurs.
- Avoid multitasking while driving. Multitasking does not always get you good results. Instead, focus on one activity at a time. This will not only enable you to do the activity fast, but the results will be better because you focus your attention on it.
Laws on Using Cell Phones While Driving in California
The state of California forbids drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving to either make a call or for texting. The law encourages drivers to use hands-free devices instead. However, young drivers and bus drivers are prohibited from using hands-free devices.
These are part of the primary enforcement laws that allow an officer to pull over a driver using a handheld cell phone.
If the use of a cell phone results in a driver causing an accident, the driver will be held accountable for the damages suffered. The use of cell phones while driving is categorized as negligent behavior on the road. Negligence and recklessness on the road result in severe crashes and significant damages.
What to do Following an Accident
When an accident occurs, there is the possibility of injuries aside from damage to the vehicles involved. When a person is involved in an accident, there are critical things they must do to save themselves as well as prepare for a compensation claim. These things include:
- Following an accident, you must call for help. Call 911 and report the accident and give details of the accident to the operator. If you need medical assistance, let the operator know so that an ambulance is called. Try and answer all the questions the operator asks if you can. Never leave the scene of the accident until the police show up. However, if you are injured and need urgent medical attention, the law allows you to seek medical attention first.
- The second important thing after the accident is to gather evidence. California is a comparative fault state, as well as a fault state. This means that the driver found at fault for causing the accident is held liable for the damages suffered. Equally, if each driver had a degree of responsibility, damages are allocated according to the level of fault.
- Gathering evidence of the accident is essential when seeking a claim from the insurance company or when the case goes to court. If you can, take as many photos as you can of the accident and from various angles. Videos of the scene and its surroundings are also crucial. While doing this, never admit fault because you do not know what the other driver was doing, and it may be the reason for the accident.
If there are witnesses to the accident, get their contact details. Talk to the other driver if possible, and get their details. Write down the other vehicle’s identification number, model, color, and make. Ask the other driver to give you details of their insurer. If they are aggressive and do not cooperate, avoid talking to them and wait for the police to arrive at the scene.
Gathering as much evidence as you can is important to show the negligence of the other driver. If this is proven, it makes it easier for you to get compensated for the damages you suffer.
Sometimes, the driver is not the owner of the vehicle involved in an accident with you. If this is the case, try and get the details of the vehicle owner from the driver.
- When the police arrive at the scene, they will evaluate it, talk to possible witnesses and the persons involved in the accident. Cooperate with the officers by producing your license, your insurance proof, and any other information they ask for. If you are issued a traffic citation, do not fight against it because it is not proof that you are at fault. The police, after analyzing the scene and interviewing the drivers or witnesses, will write their report. The report is vital for compensation claims and is made available upon request by your lawyer.
- Reporting the accident to your insurance company is essential. This is not to say you are at fault. Insurance covers have a clause that requires a driver to report when they are involved in an accident. If you fail to inform your insurer about the accident, you may suffer various consequences. These may include refusing to renew your cover, increase your premiums, and canceling the policy altogether.
What Compensations are Available for Distracted Driver Accidents?
When an accident occurs, the damage suffered can be devastating, both economically and physically, for the ones involved. The law requires each driver or vehicle owner to have a minimum insurance cover that compensates for damages in an accident. A distracted driver, if established, will be accountable for the damages suffered.
California allows for an accident victim to access two types of compensations when involved in an accident with a distracted driver. One can seek for economic as well as non-economic damages. Below, we will discuss the various damages a victim can seek compensation for under the two groups.
These are the damages a victim of an accident will suffer and are quantifiable in monetary terms. This means that it is easy to put a value on them based on evaluation from experts. Some of these damages include:
- Medical costs – after an accident, the medical cost a victim incurs while seeking treatment for the injuries is compensated. From the cost of the emergency room to the most complicated medical procedures, a victim will be rewarded compensation. Visiting a doctor to evaluate you thoroughly is essential to avoid suffering more damages later. Some injuries may not be apparent, especially internal injuries, while others are physically visible.
A doctor should establish if you are suffering from any other injuries by carrying out X-ray examinations, among others. A doctor will also determine if your injuries require prolonged treatment or will heal shortly after. Let your doctor examine you thoroughly to establish the extent of your injuries and the expected cost of treatment. This is a crucial aspect when seeking compensation for medical expenses.
- Disfigurement and lost limbs – an accident with a distracted driver can result in significant injuries on your limbs. The cost of lost limbs or their function, as well as disfigurement, is also rewarded during compensation.
- Lost income – when a person has been injured in an accident, they may need time to heal or hospital time. During this time, the victim will not be able to earn any income. A calculation is made of the amount a person would lose and presented as a claim for compensation.
- Lost ability to earn – injuries from an accident can be so devastating that a victim loses their ability to earn for the rest of their life. A calculation is made of the income the victim could have earned if they were in good health and the amount sought in compensation.
- Property damages – in a car accident, most of the damage is to the vehicle. A victim will be compensated for the cost of repairs of the vehicle. One needs to present an invoice for the damages to the insurance adjuster for analysis to receive compensation.
- Funeral and burial expenses – when a victim of an accident dies, the surviving family can seek compensation for the cost of burying their loved one.
These are the damages that are not easy to quantify or value in monetary terms. These damages include:
- Pain and Suffering – the injuries a victim suffers can result in them suffering while recuperating and experiencing significant pain. One cannot qualify the amount of pain a victim suffers. However, based on the injuries suffered, an estimate is made for compensation.
- Wrongful death – a distracted driver can cause an accident that may lead to fatalities. The family of the victim can seek compensation for the life of their loved one.
- Lost companionship – the companionship a deceased victim provided for their family cannot be quantified. However, a spouse or a registered domestic partner can seek compensation for the loss of love and companionship.
When to File a Compensation Claim
California has put a deadline on when a victim of an accident can claim for compensation or file a suit. When a victim fails to seek compensation or file a petition within the stipulated time, they lose their right to seek compensation. This makes it crucial for a victim to hire a personal injury lawyer that can pursue the claim on their behalf as they recuperate or carry on with their lives.
This deadline is found under California’s statute of limitations. Under this statute, a victim of a car accident must claim for damages within two years from the date the accident happened.
Raising a Claim with the Insurer
After an accident, as earlier stated, never admit fault. When you accept fault, you will carry the responsibility of the damages suffered in the accident. Getting in touch with a personal injury lawyer is the best option for you to pursue your fair compensation. Earlier, we discussed the various things you must do immediately after the accident. Photos, videos, statements from witnesses, and your account of the accident are outstanding when seeking compensation.
You need to provide all the information to your lawyer as well as the police report of the accident. Aside from the evidence to show the distracted driver was at fault for the accident, you must attach the relevant documents for compensation. These include medical reports detailing the kind of treatment you received and the costs. If any other therapeutic procedures were performed, these must also be included and their price as well. A doctor should also give details of any medical treatment that may be required in the future and the approximate cost for the same.
In case of death, the details of the victim are essential, including what they were earning, their age, and any other important details that will help calculate a claim. Burial and funeral expenses must also be included.
For vehicle damages, seek an invoice from an auto shop that details the damages to the car and the cost of repairing it.
With all this information, your lawyer will present it to the other party’s insurer. Negotiations will follow with your lawyer seeking to get the best compensation possible. If the negotiations do not yield a favorable settlement, your lawyer can advise you to file a petition in court for the damages.
Once a lawsuit for the claim is filed, a hearing for the case commences. In the hearing, the evidence must be produced to show the at-fault driver. This is crucial, as earlier stated that California is a fault state. This means the driver liable for the accident is held accountable for the damages suffered. The evidence gathered at the accident scene becomes critical in establishing the party responsible for the accident. If the court finds both parties are partially to blame, damages are apportioned according to the degree of fault.
Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
A road accident can result in many consequences, both for the victim and the distracted driver. Even with financial compensation for the damages suffered, it is impossible to replace a loved one or a lost limb. However, monetary compensation will help the victim of the accident and their families cope with the financial burdens that an accident brings. Speaking to a lawyer will help you pursue your fair claim while carrying on with your life. If you are involved in a collision with a distracted driver, the law permits you to seek damages. Our lawyers at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm are experienced in navigating California personal injury laws. Call us at 310-935-0089, and we will be glad to help you.