Florida has recorded a lot of deaths out of distracted driving. This has raised the alarm in different departments and organizations associated with road safety. If you or your loved one has suffered injuries and losses through an accident that is related to distracted driving, you should be compensated by the at-fault parties. It is easier to get compensated for your losses if you depend on a personal injury attorney. Clay County Personal Injury Attorney has the credibility and experience needed for such cases.
Definition of a Distracted Driver
According to NHTSA, a distracted driver is anyone operating a vehicle and has diverted attention from the crucial task of driving. Some of the common reasons behind distracted driving include talking with passengers, entertainment on the vehicle’s stereo, and anything else that can draw your attention from safe driving. To emphasize how grave this menace has been on the roads, here are a couple of statistics related to distracted driving.
- Florida has been considered as the second-worst state when it comes to distracted driving
- Distracted driving accounts for about 50,000 crashes every year in Florida
- An average of 137 distracted-driver crashes occur every day
- More than 200 people die every year due to distracted driving accidents in California
Laws against Distracted Driving in Florida
The Florida Department of Transportation considers distracted driving as anything that can take away the attention of a driver from the sole responsibility of driving. The department has classified distracted driving into three categories. These categories are as follows:
- Manual distracted driving. This explains anything that can cause the driver to take off his or her hands out of the steering wheel
- Visually distracted driving. This explains anything that can cause the driver to take off his or her eyes off the focus of the road
- Cognitively distracted driver. This explains anything that causes mental distraction from the focus of driving
Some distracted driving seems perfectly legal, although they are quite dangerous. These include using your rear-view mirror to check your makeup, arguing with your passenger, or adjusting temperature controls. As for now, law enforcers are focused on preventing distracted driving, which results from texting.
A partnership between the Florida Department of Highway Safety and the Department of Transportation and Law enforcement has seen a campaign dubbed Put It Down: Focus on Driving. The campaign has seen the passing of laws that focus on the fight against distracted driving. These laws are as follows;
Florida Statutes Section 316.305
This statute took effect on 1st July 2019. It allows traffic and law enforcers to stop any motor vehicle and issue a citation on the driver or motorist against texting or driving. The statute further indicates that one should not operate a car while entering letters or typing, emailing, or sending an instant message on any hand-held device.
Florida Statutes Section 316.306
Under this statute, it is prohibited for a driver to use wireless communication devices in a work zone or school. Therefore, the driver is not expected to use a wireless communication device while driving near a school zone, a school crossing zone, or an active work zone. Under this statute, an active work zone means that the place has construction personnel present in the site, and there are operating equipment close or on the road.
Although there are quite a lot of restrictions against distracted driving in California, there are a couple of exceptions that apply. For instance, it is deemed okay to text or use your cell phone while in a red light or a traffic jam. Also, the restriction against the use of a handheld device in a work zone only applies if people are working with that area.
Besides that, there are a couple of other Florida’s distracted driving instances that are exempted. This includes:
- Drivers or operators of authorized emergency vehicles such as fire services, law enforcement, and emergency services professionals can use communication devices while conducting an official duty
- Drivers who are reporting criminal activities, emergency or suspicion to criminal action can use their devices to reach out to necessary authorities
- Drivers who are receiving messages related to their services and navigation in a safety-related situation. This includes an instance where they need an update on weather alerts, radio broadcast, emergencies, and traffic updates
- Drivers who are using the voice-to-text hands-free technology in their vehicle
- Drivers who are using GPS or any other navigation system
- Drivers who are driving an autonomous vehicle in its autonomous mode
Causes of Distracted Driving
Although Florida laws have emphasized a lot against texting while driving, there are lots of other factors that cause distracted driving. Let’s have an in-depth look at these factors.
Cell phones have the highest contribution when it comes to distracted driving. A driver can be distracted due to activities such as texting, talking using the phone, or playing a game. Taking note of a message on your phone might take five seconds, but at the same time, you can travel through a length similar to a football field if you are driving at an average of 55mph. This shows how dangerous it might be if you take your eyes off the road even for a second.
Also, with the prevalence of hands-free technology, there are still chances of causing an accident. It might make you lose concentration on the road, especially when you enter into a heated argument with the person that you are speaking to. The best thing to do is pull up in a safe zone, receive the call or text back rather than doing so while driving.
Applying Makeup or Grooming
It is common to find people doing some last touches on themselves before they jump out of the vehicle. Some of the grooming activities that most people are fond of engaging in include the use of deodorant, combing the hair, and adding lipstick. If you decide to do so while driving, you will have to take your eyes off the road. As a result, you can easily collide with another vehicle or hit a pedestrian.
Lost of Thoughts
This is another common cause of distracted driving. It might result from daydreaming, being worried about something or anger. While a driver has been lost in thoughts, there are fewer chances that one can manage to react accordingly when in a situation that requires quick thinking. Most drivers who are distracted by their thoughts would probably have settled on auto-pilot and assumed that it is safe to zone out.
It is natural to speak with someone who is riding along with you in the car. However, it can also distract you from driving, which might result in an accident. The moment you turn to the passenger to respond to a conversation is enough to cause an accident if you are not careful enough. Other passengers can go to the extent of arguing with the drivers, triggering their emotions, which results in an accident.
Eating or Drinking
Unfortunately, modern car models have a cup holder to hold your coffee or water while driving. Turning to their position to get hold of your drink might easily distract you from driving, leading to a collision. Also, if you love taking snacks while on transit, a simple bite might distract you, resulting in an accident as well.
Moving Objects or Insects
Bringing a pet along or having an insect fly through your windscreen is enough to distract you from driving. Also, your instincts, such as holding something from falling from the seat, can be the source of your distraction. Therefore, you better let the object fall from the seat and avoid causing an accident or pull off in a safe location to calm your pet rather than trying to do something while driving. If the situation seems much worse, you can use the seat belt to restrain the object from falling or your pet’s cage until you reach a safe spot.
It is tempting to look outside when something is going on. For instance, if you witness an accident, a glimpse of an animal, or see something unexpected along your route, you might be easily distracting you from your driving. Even if you slow down, you can still cause an accident since your attention from the road has been distracted.
Reaching Out for Something in the Vehicle
If you are driving over a long distance, you probably have some snacks with you or something that you need from your bag. Getting the specific thing from its position in the vehicle is enough to contribute to an accident. The best thing to do is to pull up your car at a safe location, get what you need, and continue driving.
Manipulating Car Controls or Components
It is always crucial to adjust your car’s components such as the windows, exterior mirrors, adjust the seat, or check your navigation device. However, such activities cause distraction despite how insignificant they might appear. In such a case, you should learn the location of the components until you can use them without getting your eyes off the road. That’s why most vehicles have all the crucial component controls at the driver’s door.
Adjusting Climate Control or Audio
Another significant control that is found in the vehicle is the air conditioning and the radio. Both of these components need adjustments depending on the expectations of the driver. Unfortunately, taking your eyes off the road to control such components might lead to an accident. That’s why it is recommended that drivers tune their radios and temperature before they drive.
Kids can be a nuisance sometimes, especially in a car. They might start fighting or quarreling, tempting you to take your eyes off the road. In such a situation, stop your vehicle at a safe spot and deal with the issue at hand. Otherwise, you might end up causing an accident, which might also affect your family.
It is dangerous to smoke despite the situation you are in. However, regular smokers extend their habit even while they are driving, and this can significantly distract their driving. So, if you cannot deal with your smoking habit, you better pull off at a safe spot and knock it off rather than smoking while behind the wheel.
Driving while under the Influence
DUI is also another common cause of distracted driving. Alcohol or any other mind-altering drug can alter your judgment and make you lose focus of the road as well. In Florida, DUI is charged separately from other forms of distracted driving.
Types of Injuries that Result from a Distracted Driver
The kind of injuries that result from distracted driving are not different from common car accident injuries. Let’s have a closer look at these injuries.
This kind of injury ranges from mild to severe based on the individual and the placement of the victim’s head. Some head injuries might appear to be minor but can be life-threatening and should be taken with a lot of seriousness. If a distracted driver crashes on your vehicle, there are possibilities of getting a head injury if you hit the window or the steering wheel. It is hard to diagnose a head injury at first, but with a thorough medical evaluation, doctors can find the injury and work on it promptly.
Back injuries are common in severe accidents. They can lead to injuries on the spinal cord, which can result in paralysis, while milder accidents can cause injuries on the herniated disks. Back injuries are not obvious just like head injuries hence the need for taking a thorough assessment of your body.
Broken bones occur when the physical force applies more force than the bone can carry, depending on its strength. If one incurs a simple bone fracture, this means that the bone has broken without causing an open wound. On the other hand, compound fractures penetrate through the skin, leading to an open wound. Having a broken bone is extremely painful, and victims are unable to move their limbs. A doctor must handle such an issue as fast as possible to avoid further complications.
This is a common injury that occurs when the neck undergoes a rapid movement back-and-forth. It usually happens in a rear-end collision. Common symptoms that result from such an accident include headaches, pain, and neck stiffness.
It is common not to experience any pain within a few times, especially if the injury is not too severe. However, for an acute injury, the pain might persist through a couple of months.
Car accidents can leave you traumatized, which is referred to as a psychological accident. Some of the common types of psychological injuries include aversion to driving, deep depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People who are experiencing psychological injuries should seek support from a psychotherapist.
Scarring and Disfigurement
If one is involved in a gruesome accident, there are chances of experiencing scarring and disfigurement injuries. Such injuries result from burns or impact from broken objects. Although the injuries might be healed, there is a lasting impact on the victim’s body if it ends up scarred or disfigured. Such victims can seek reconstructive surgeries to deal with such injuries.
Amputation is the permanent loss of a limb. This usually happens when a limb is severely injured or infected. In that case, doctors will decide to amputate the limb to save the life of the victim. Such injuries leave the victim with the dependency of prosthetic aids, which can be expensive to maintain.
If the vehicle catches fire during an accident, the skin might contact steams, chemicals, or hot fluid leading to burns. If one is severely burned, he or she might require skin grafting as part of the treatment.
Liability in Distracted Driver Cases
In any case that involves liability, the prosecutor must establish the basic elements of the crime. This means that the prosecutor must prove negligence in the following way:
- Prove that the driver had the duty of care
- Prove that the driver breached the duty of care
- the breach of care led to the accident
- The injured party suffered damages as a result of the accident
Please note, in a distracted driver case, the breach of duty of care is represented by the cause of the driver’s distraction. In such a case, the at-fault driver is expected to be held liable for causing the accident and your damages. However, under Florida laws, other people can be held responsible for the accident, such as:
- The person sitting next to the driver if he or she was involved in an activity that would distract the driver
- The driver’s employee if he or she knowingly caused the accident by calling the driver.
Proving Liability in Your Case
For one to prove liability in a case, the attorney and prosecutor must prove that the alleged at-fault driver breached the elements of negligence stated above. However, you can also be held liable, depending on the kind of evidence presented to the court. Please note, Florida is a comparative negligence state, meaning that damages are awarded according to the extent of participation of the at-fault party.
Therefore, your attorney has to employ relevant evidence and investigation to show that the driver was fully liable for the accident. This will help in winning your case since the responsible insurance company will work hard to shift the blame on you or push for a shared responsibility based on the comparative negligence law. Some of the evidence that the attorney can present in court include:
- Witness statement
- Photographs and videos of the accident
- Police reports
- Traffic footage
Recoverable Damages in a Distracted Driver Case
Once the prosecutor has successfully proven negligence in your case, you can be able to recover both compensatory and punitive damages. Therefore, one can recover damages such as:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Damages on your vehicle
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
The judge might also award you with punitive damages if the at-fault driver is proven to have acted with gross negligence. Some of the potential behaviors that might prompt the court to award punitive damages include:
- Charges with a crime such as manslaughter related to the accident
- Failing to stop after causing the accident
- Being voluntarily intoxicated
- Driving at excessive speed and at the same time is getting distracted off the road.
It is not easy to calculate the damages that should be awarded to a victim after an accident. There are a lot of factors that you have to deal with, such as insurance adjusters and the inability to calculate non-economic damages. Even so, most law firms have discovered ways to handle such situations by using multipliers, per diem method and estimation of a generalized cost. These factors depend on a couple of aspects. They include:
- The severity of the injuries
- Permanent effect
- Impact on the victim’s daily life
- The level of treatment that one anticipates getting throughout the recovery process
- The kind of medical treatment that you need
Your attorney should argue for the highest multiplier while the adjuster tries to bring it down. It is the mandate of the court to determine how much a victim should be awarded depending on the severity of injuries, especially in a case where one will suffer permanent disability. Once they have settled on the number, your damages will be calculated and added to the rest of the damages.
Find a Clay County Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
The fact that you are a victim of a distracted driver accident means that you are eligible for compensation. Unfortunately, the court process that follows after you have filed a lawsuit can be complicated. That’s why you should contact a professional personal injury attorney who can help in handling your case in court. Not all attorneys who claim to be experienced are in a position of guaranteeing quality services. You need an attorney who has experience in this kind of case and is associated with a renowned law firm. Clay County Personal Injury Attorney has the kind of lawyer that you need and can match your expectations as well. If you are living in Clay County, Fl, contact us at 904-494-8242 and let us handle your case.