In recent years, many states have passed tough “hands-free” laws which greatly limit cell phone use while driving. Indiana has one of the laxest cell phone laws in the country. While our state has a hands-free law, it only applies to drivers under the age of 21. Even though the cell phone law is practically nonexistent, device distraction crash victims still have legal obligations.
Compensation in these matters usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Device Distraction and Negligence Per Se
Indiana’s cell phone ban is narrowly tailored to a driver under 21. Statistically, members of this age group are more likely to use their phones while driving. If drivers violate the cell phone law and cause injury, the negligence per se doctrine may apply. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) may be liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety law, and
- That violation substantially causes a crash.
Marion County jurors tend to award large damages in negligence per se cases. DUI crashes are a good illustration. Typically, these tortfeasors know they are too impaired to drive. Nevertheless, they get behind the wheel anyway and intentionally put other motorists at risk.
Indiana law only has a limited cell phone ban, but some area municipalities have stronger bans. For example, they may ban texting and driving or using a cell phone in a school zone.
Device Distraction and Ordinary Negligence
Nevertheless, in the vast majority of device distraction cases, victims/plaintiffs must rely on circumstantial evidence that proves ordinary negligence. Basically, ordinary negligence is a lack of care. We all make driving mistakes from time to time which shows a lack of care. We must all accept the consequences of our driving mistakes. If that consequence was a crash, damages are applicable, as outlined above.
Ordinary negligence claims are built on solid evidence. Some possible proof of device distraction claims includes:
- Call logs,
- Text message records,
- Browsing history, and
- Erratic driving.
Note that the tortfeasor possesses most of this evidence. So, in device distraction cases, Indianapolis personal injury attorneys usually send spoliation letters. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all possible physical evidence in the case. Otherwise, the tortfeasor might “accidentally” delete these records. It requires a considerable amount of money and time to recover these deleted records.
Additionally, hand-held cell phones are not the only distracting devices. In fact, there is some evidence that hands-free gadgets are more distracting than hand-held devices. Hands-free phones are visually and cognitively distraction. Users take their eyes off the road and their minds off driving. Moreover, hands-free phones give drivers a false sense of security. So, they take more chances than they should.
In court, the victim/plaintiff must establish a lack of care by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Typically, if the tortfeasor was regularly using a cell phone in the minutes before the crash, Marion County jurors usually conclude that the tortfeasor’s conduct fell below the standard of care.
Contact Dedicated Lawyers
Device distraction crash victims have multiple legal options. Schedule your free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Indianapolis as soon as you can. Contact Holland & Holland today.