Almost 90% of drivers state that texting while driving is “dangerous” and “unacceptable.” Yet over a third of drivers admit they engage in such behavior. That statistic illustrates how dangerous distracted driving is, and how much compensation might be available after a crash. Driving while multitasking is like driving with one’s eyes closed. Furthermore, distracted drivers arguably disregard a known risk.
Because of these facts, an Indianapolis personal injury attorney can usually obtain compensation for economic losses, which are easily quantifiable, such as bills from the hospital, and noneconomic losses, which are harder to assign a dollar value, such as loss of enjoyment of life or pain and suffering. Additionally, most of these cases settle out of court, and on victim-friendly terms.
What is Distracted Driving?
Hand-held cell phones get most of the attention in this area, but these devices only cause a fraction of distracted driving accidents. Most of these incidents involve driving while multitasking, and this list is long. Some examples include:
- Eating while driving,
- Talking to passengers while driving,
- Using a hands-free speakerphone while driving,
- Drinking while driving,
- Sightseeing while driving, and
- Daydreaming while driving.
All these behaviors are almost as dangerous as using a hand-held cell phone while driving, and all these behaviors are technically legal. Nevertheless, when these distracted drivers cause car crashes, victims still have legal options.
Essentially, negligence is a lack of care. Most noncommercial drivers in Indiana have a duty of reasonable care. They must obey the rules of the road, drive defensively, and avoid accidents when possible. Non-device distraction might not violate the law, but it arguably violates the two other pillars of the duty of reasonable care.
Not every lapse involves a breach of duty. Talking to passengers is a good example. Technically, if tortfeasors (negligent drivers) turn their heads for a moment, that is distracted driving. However, most people, including most jurors, do not consider such behavior a lack of care. If the tortfeasor was arguing with a passenger prior to the crash, that is a different story.
Circumstantial evidence is critical on this point. Such evidence includes erratic driving prior to the crash, witness statements, and the tortfeasor’s admissions.
Causation and damages are the final two elements of a negligence claim. Causation includes factual cause, which is a direct connection between the breach and the damages, and legal cause, which involves foreseeability. Furthermore, the victim must sustain physical personal injury or property damage. A near miss does not count.
Negligence Per Se
In June 2020, Indiana lawmakers approved a hands-free law. It is illegal to hold and use a cell phone while driving. “Using” a phone includes not only talking and texting, but also activities like watching videos, web surfing, using apps, and taking pictures.
So, if a tortfeasor uses a phone and causes a crash, the negligence per se doctrine will likely apply. The at-fault party could be liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate safety laws, and
- Those violations substantially cause injuries.
However, the hands-free law has a number of exceptions. Additionally, unless an officer sees a driver using a phone, the officer rarely issues a ticket.
As mentioned, damages are usually rather high in most distracted driving claims. Typically, even more compensation is available in negligence per se claims.
Reach Out to Dedicated Lawyers
Distracted drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Indianapolis personal injury attorney, contact Holland & Holland. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.