People tend to carry their phones everywhere they travel, including in their cars. Using an electronic device while driving is punishable by law since it diverts the motorist’s focus. A driver could get into additional financial trouble if they allowed a distraction to cause a crash.
You may have gotten into a car accident with a texting driver. Their negligence resulted in expensive medical bills for severe injuries. While the aftermath is stressful, you do not have to go through it alone. Here is what you can do to get the financial recovery you need.
Texting Is a Common Distraction
A challenge many people face while they drive is distractions. In a recent year, more than 424,000 people suffered from injuries from distracted motorists. Diversions can be manual, visual, or cognitive.
Nonetheless, phone usage regularly takes people’s attention away from their environment. Around 16.2 percent of drivers report they text while behind the wheel. Plenty of people also view their messages while driving.
Someone may only glance at their phone for a couple of seconds. However, even a couple of seconds is enough for a disaster to occur. A driver travels a significant distance while looking at a phone, making it likely for something unexpected to present.
A driver may not notice the car suddenly stop in front of them or a pedestrian walk across the street. Alternatively, they can have a delayed response if they do see traffic change. The distracted person could then hit another motorist, bicyclist, or pedestrian.
Penalties for Texting While Driving
Most states ban texting while driving due to the potential danger of the behavior. A police officer could write a motorist a citation for texting even if they did not commit other traffic violations. Some state laws also prevent people from using their phones to make calls.
Authorities have learned to watch for specific driving behaviors to spot drivers on their phones. They observe if the vehicle drifts between lanes or takes too long to move when the light turns green. Texting can also be evident if the driver frequently looks down at their lap.
If drivers get into trouble for texting, they can expect to pay fines. The fines depend on where they live, and the amount could increase with each offense. In addition, the court may sentence the person to jail time. The length of a sentence varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Texting and driving citations impact the motorist’s license. Many states use a points system, and a high number in a short period results in a suspension. The DMV may even revoke a license for repeated texting and driving infractions.
Insurance companies typically punish negligent drivers as well. Driving history plays a significant role in the price of coverage premiums. Therefore, premiums and deductibles increase if a texting-related collision occurs. The average surge in rates is 23 percent, but the at-fault driver could face a higher increase.
What You Can Do if You Get Into an Accident With a Texting Driver
You may find yourself in an accident with a texting driver. Depending on the force of impact, the vehicle damage might be substantial. In addition, your injuries may also be severe. Immediately after a car accident is a confusing time, and you may wonder what you can do to help yourself and your future claim.
See a Doctor
The first course of action is to go to the nearest hospital. You must address any serious wounds and ensure you do not suffer from an unseen injury. When a doctor finishes evaluating your condition, you can use the resulting record to support your accident claim.
Furthermore, immediate medical care shows the severity of your injury. The insurer may see a delay in treatment as proof your injuries are not significant. As a result, the adjuster may try to reduce your settlement.
Call the Insurer to File a Claim
The next step is to let the insurance company know about the accident. Many places require licensed drivers to carry an insurance policy. Therefore, you need to get the name and number of the at-fault motorist’s insurer.
You can then contact the insurance company to alert them of the accident and impending claim. However, speaking with the insurer yourself can be risky to your claim, so attorneys recommend only giving them your name, insurance information, date and location of the accident, and attorney’s contact information.
Your attorney can proceed with filing the claim and handling communication with the insurer. The insurer assigns an adjuster to review your claim and evaluate the cost of repairs. The adjuster may request documents and a few details about the crash. However, you should direct these representatives to your attorney to avoid giving them any ammunition to use against you.
Consult a Car Accident Lawyer
After a collision with a texting driver, find a car accident lawyer, preferably before speaking with the insurer. An attorney can help you negotiate a fair settlement offer with the insurance company. Additionally, they assist you with navigating the legal system if the insurer won’t settle and you need to file a lawsuit.
Most car accident lawyers offer free consultations. Furthermore, you shouldn’t need to pay anything upfront because motor vehicle accident attorneys usually charge a contingency fee. This fee structure means they do not collect payment unless you win a settlement.
The Insurance Adjuster May Deny Your Claim
Adjusters evaluate damages and offer payments to claimants. However, they still must keep the insurance company’s interests in mind. The adjuster may use tactics to lower the worth of someone’s claim.
In some cases, the insurer denies a claim altogether. Although a company may have a legitimate reason, some claimants lose compensation due to bad faith arguments.
You might hear these justifications:
- The damages exceed maximum coverage. You or the other party may have policy limits for how much the insurer pays. The insurance company generally pays up to the maximum. However, the adjuster could use the cap as a reason to reject the claim.
- A debate over liability. During the investigation, the adjuster may find a reason to believe their insured driver was not at fault. Avoid speculative phrases if you speak to the insurer to reduce the chance of denial.
- A lapsed plan. You might run into an issue if you discover the other party did not make a premium payment on time. Their policy was expired when the accident occurred, and you cannot collect money from the insurer.
- Failed to see a doctor on time. Specific injuries take days to appear, so you need to see a physician promptly. Otherwise, the adjuster may believe the accident is not as severe as you say. Alternatively, they can argue an injury was from another event or pre-existing condition.
- Failed to report the crash soon enough. An adjuster can deny someone’s claim under the argument they had little time to investigate. Contact the insurance company as quickly as possible while evidence remains valid to avoid issues.
Your experienced motor vehicle accident attorney can advise whether a denial is legitimate or should be appealed. States have a department in case a person objects to a denied claim. Someone from the department reviews the legitimacy of the rejection and decides if it should be overturned and the claim paid.
You could have the option to pursue a lawsuit as well. Your attorney will work with you to determine the best path to compensation.
Can You Use the Driver’s Phone Records?
Since texting while driving is illegal, the conduct is a sign the at-fault motorist violated their duty to drive safely. However, the injured party needs to prove how the liable driver failed to keep others safe. The victim may use multiple pieces of evidence to prove their case.
In a car accident lawsuit, you can use the at-fault party’s text history against them. Your lawyer can request phone records to show the person texted during the moment of the crash. The documents show when the person received or sent a message, even if they deleted texts.
Additionally, your lawyer may be able to get screenshots of phone conversations if the device survived the collision. The records prove the at-fault driver’s wrongdoing and will support your claim or lawsuit.
Are Texting Drivers Eligible for Punitive Damages?
In addition to economic and non-economic damages, an injured party may receive punitive damages in a settlement. Punitive damages do not aim to compensate the victim. Instead, the penalty’s goal is to punish the negligent party for substantial recklessness or malicious behavior. Only a handful of lawsuits receive such a verdict from a judge every year. Furthermore, a specific formula determines the amount, and many states have a damage cap for punitive recovery.
A plaintiff may be able to request punitive damages in a lawsuit against the distracted motorist. However, the path to getting the verdict is not simple. The injured person must prove how the texting driver acted willfully or completely disregarded other people’s safety.
The court may grant punitive damages since phone use behind the wheel is a crime in many jurisdictions. Nevertheless, some judges may not view texting as a valid enough reason for the additional penalty.
How to Prove the At-Fault Party’s Liability
If you decide to sue the other party for damages, you must gather proof their lack of attention from texting caused the incident. Your attorney will work to find the documents necessary to prove the at-fault driver’s liability for the accident.
Besides cell phone records, you should obtain footage of the driver’s conduct before the crash. Video evidence may come from your or another vehicle’s dash cam. Additionally, some roads have traffic cameras, or businesses have security cameras you can use to build your case.
Eyewitnesses may provide credible testimony to support your case. After the accident, look if anyone was around to observe what happened. Ask them for their name and contact information. Your lawyer can reach out to them later to collect statements.
While police reports may not be admissible in court, lawsuits still benefit from the documents. An official accident report lists the names of the involved parties. You may get the contact details of witnesses as well. Furthermore, the document may include the opinion of the responding officer.
Social media can be a helpful tool in lawsuits against a texting driver. The motorist may have posted an update at the time of the collision. Your lawyer compares the timestamp of posts with when the crash occurred. Moreover, the other driver may talk about the accident online and implicate themselves.
Do Not Accept a Quick Settlement
A common mistake people make after a collision with a texting driver is settling too quickly. The insurance company may offer compensation in the weeks after you file a claim. The offer likely feels convenient as medical bills pile up for your injuries.
However, the first proposal for a settlement is usually insufficient to cover a claimant’s losses. The amount is low because the insurer hopes to take advantage of you during a vulnerable period. The company hopes to get you to agree before you realize the exact value of your losses.
Therefore, you should turn down the initial offer and hire the assistance of a lawyer. Attorneys know what factors influence your claim’s worth. They determine how much you should receive in a settlement and negotiate a fair offer.
Common Defenses of Texting Drivers
Several texting drivers will admit fault and settle as quickly as they can. Meanwhile, others may try to deny they are responsible for the crash. You should find a car accident lawyer, especially if the negligent motorist tries to avoid paying a settlement.
An attorney prepares you for the type of strategies the defendant may use.
Common defenses in texting and driving cases include:
- Someone else was at fault. Even if a person violated a traffic law, they might not have caused the accident. Therefore, the opposing party could claim they were not responsible. The other driver might place the blame on you or another entity.
- Emergency use. In accident lawsuits involving phones, a special exception could apply if the driver needed to make an emergency call. Some texting drivers may choose the defense to avoid liability.
- Expired statute of limitations. All car accident cases have a deadline for victims to file their lawsuit called the statute of limitations. The number of years you have depends on your state but is usually between 2-4 years. If time runs out, the other party can have the court dismiss the case, and the victim will have no recourse for recovering compensation.
- Pre-existing condition. You need to establish the link between the crash and your losses. Nevertheless, the other driver may say your injury is merely a pre-existing condition. Even if you have a pre-existing condition, you can usually get compensation for additional injuries.
Car accident attorneys have experience with defendants trying to avoid liability. Contact a personal injury lawyer who can protect you from tactics insurers use to avoid providing adequate compensation. Schedule a free initial consultation and find out what you deserve for your texting and driving accident injuries.