What is Distracted Driving?
A distraction represents anything that causes a driver to lose attention. Broadly speaking, anything or any activity in a vehicle potentially distracts a driver. Some examples of distractions include:
- Conversations with passengers
- Unruly children
- Car radio
- Personal grooming
- Texting or emailing
- Phone calls
- Social Media
- Pets in the car
- Other vehicles or pedestrians
All of these distractions could draw a driver’s attention away from the road and enhance the risks of car crashes.
Types of Distracted Driving
Manual – These types of distractions include cell phone use, eating, applying makeup, reaching for items in the car, and using the center console.
Visual – Any type of distraction that causes a driver to take their eyes off the road is considered a visual distraction. This could be other cars, a person, or a sign.
Cognitive – Sometimes drivers become distracted by their own thoughts, emotions, or stress. This includes daydreaming or spacing out while driving.
Smartphone Use While Driving
The most common cause of distracted driving accidents is the use of cell phones or smartphones while driving. This can be either texting, talking on the phone, taking pictures or videos, or browsing social media. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration reported that in 2017, cell phone-related distractions resulted in or contributed to 401 fatal crashes that killed 434 people. Nearly 330,000 crashes involving a driver sending or reading texts featured serious injuries.
By sending or reading a text, a driver ignores the road for five seconds. If such a distracted person drives at 55 mph for five seconds, the vehicle has traversed the equivalent of a football field from goal line to goal line. Perhaps more importantly, the driver has been distracted for two seconds more than the time it takes to cause a car crash while not paying attention.
Social media, Internet-browsing and other apps on smartphones create opportunities to distract drivers. Even voice-activated messages and searches require drivers to think about matters other than road conditions, the presence of other vehicles and pedestrians, and traffic signals and signs.
Filing a Distracted Driving Lawsuit
At the core of many distracted driving cases lie the at-fault driver’s failure to keep a proper lookout. Nearly one in four vehicle accidents involve a rear-end collision. The failure to keep a proper lookout is a customary allegation in a distracted driving lawsuit against a negligent driver. The law generally regards the fact of a rear-end collision as proof that a driver failed to keep a proper lookout.
A distracted driving accident claim will allege many other ways that the distracted driver has violated traffic laws and caused a car accident. Depending on the facts, your grounds for a lawsuit may include speeding, failure to obey traffic lights or signs, reckless driving, and texting while driving. Georgia’s traffic laws prohibit the handling of any electronic device while driving. Unsafe movements or failure of a driver to give a turn signal may also arise from a distracted driving case. Drivers trying to eat or read often fail to keep their hands on the steering wheel, thus failing to keep the vehicle under control.
How Do You Prove Distracted Driving?
The Crash Report
A crash report or an officer’s investigation of the crash usually provides details of the crash and how it happened. The officer takes statements from drivers, passengers, and witnesses and examines skid marks and other physical evidence from the crash scene. In some cases, the driver will admit to the distracted driving or not seeing the stop sign or other objects.
After the investigation, the police officer determines the speed and depicts the position of vehicles at the time of the crash, the speed of the vehicles prior to and at impact, what caused the crash, and who will be cited.
The Wireless Device Records
Smartphones and cell phones generate helpful records of use. Dates and times accompany texts and phone calls. Posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are also time-stamped. As such, you will have strong proof that the defendant driver was using an electronic device and was distracted while driving.
Our distracted driving lawyers have at their disposal discovery procedures to get this information. During the discovery, our lawyers send the defendant’s lawyer interrogatories — written questions answered under oath — and requests for documents, electronic data, and digital communications. These requests encompass hard copies of or access to social media posts, texts, phone records and the driver’s Internet browsing history around the time of the crash.
If the defendant has deleted them, the distracted driving lawyer can demand to know when and why, establish that the defendant hid the evidence of his or her activities, and may get a court to rule that the driver was a distracted driver.
It may also be necessary to subpoena the wireless phone provider for phone and other records. You may especially need this approach if the driver does not own the phone that was being used. For this reason, you need to know the identity of the passengers as well as the driver. The crash report will contain this information.
Usually, after these questions are answered and items produced, your distracted driving lawyer will depose the driver. In a deposition, the driver gives testimony under oath and is asked to identify his or her social media, texts, and other smartphone or cell phone activity while driving. Depositions record the driver’s version of events and can be used to contradict any different testimony the driver offers at trial.
Eyewitnesses and Images
Additional clues of the driver’s cell phone use or other distracted driving may come from passengers. Their depositions and other statements may reveal whether the driver was staring, even for a few seconds, at the on-board GPS or radio display screen or whether the driver was engaged with the smartphone. The questioning can focus on whether and why the driver looked downward at a smartphone, as well as activities such as reading, eating or grooming.
Footage from cameras mounted on buildings near the crash scene might show the driver texting, eating, or grooming. While you’re at the accident scene, take photographs and video of the vehicles, the cell phone of the other driver, or as much of the interior of the other vehicle as possible for items such as newspapers, food wrappers, and open containers. These articles may help prove that the defendant driver was eating or reading while driving.
Working with a Distracted Driving Lawyer
The experienced car accident lawyers at The Eichholz Law Firm will be able to gather evidence and help plaintiffs through the entire litigation process. Our attorneys will also help negotiate fair settlements with insurance companies who will try to offer you less than what you are actually owed.
The Hands-Free Georgia Act
On July 1, 2018, the Hands-Free Georgia Act took effect and required drivers to use hands-free technology for cell phones and other electronics while driving.
This Act prohibits the following:
- Holding or supporting an electronic device
- Texting, emailing, or any other type of electronic communication
- Watching videos
- Taking pictures or recording videos
The following is not prohibited by the Act:
- Speaking or texting while using hands-free technology
- Using a GPS
- Wearing and using a smartwatch
- Using an earpiece for phone calls
- Using different types of radios
- Using emergency communication devices
- Using prescribed medical devices
- Using a phone while driving to report a medical emergency, accident, fire, crime, or hazardous road conditions
- First responders and workers responding to a utility emergency are exempt from the hands-free requirement
Were You the Victim in a Distracted Driving Accident?
In Georgia, you have two years after the date of the crash to file a distracted driving lawsuit. If you have been injured by a distracted driver, you should contact our distracted driving lawyers promptly.
The time prior to filing a distracted driving lawsuit involves gathering the accident report, photographs, videos, and medical records. You should obtain treatment and documentation of your injuries. Depending on your employment and the severity of your injuries, you may receive compensation for any lost wages and lost earning capacity.
Contact our distracted driving lawyers today at 855-551-1019 or fill out an online form for a free case evaluation.
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- Neil Goodman. “Who Is at Fault For a Parking Lot Car Accident?”, Nolo, https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/who-is-at-fault-for-a-parking-lot-car-accident.html. Accessed August 5, 2019.
- Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance. “Parking Lot Accident Danger Zones”, Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance. https://www.ameriprise.com/auto-home-insurance/aah/learning-center/auto/safe-driving/how-to-avoid-parking-lot-accidents/. August 5, 2019.
- FreeAdvice Staff. “Who Is at Fault for an Accident in a Parking Lot?”, FreeAdvice Legal, https://accident-law.freeadvice.com/accident-law/auto/parking-lot-auto-accident-laibility.htm. August 5, 2019.