According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 15 percent of all injury crashes result from distracted driving, and almost 10 percent of fatal crashes occur because of distracted driving.
New York has led the way as the first state to ban cell phone use while driving, the most common driving distraction. However, cell phone use is only one of many activities that can interfere with a driver’s task to concentrate on the road. Far too many distracted driving accidents still occur in Queens and throughout New York City. Many accident victims walk away without serious injuries, but distracted driving can lead to accidents that cause life-threatening and fatal injuries.
If you have suffered injuries at the hands of a distracted driver in Queens, New York law permits you to take legal action to seek compensation for damages related to the accident and your injuries. Contact an experienced lawyer who can guide you through the claims process and initiate a Queens car accident lawsuit, if necessary.
If you sustained injuries in a Queens distracted driving accident or just seek information, this post provides a closer look into the prevalence of distracted driving in Queens, the activities that constitute distracted driving, injuries accident victims face, how to seek compensation for damages, and how a car accident lawyer can help you with your accident injury claim.
Queens Distracted Driving Accidents Are Pervasive
The NYPD collects data about traffic collisions and moving violations in Queens and throughout New York City’s other boroughs. Distracted driving occurs more frequently than you might think. This dangerous behavior can lead to severe accidents that sometimes lead to death for those involved.
Recent alarming data from the NYPD includes:
- Thousands of distracted driving accidents occur at Queens intersections and on the borough’s highways, bridges, and tunnels.
- In one month, more than 500 distracted driving accidents occurred in Queens, including approximately 150 on highways, bridges, and in tunnels, and more than 400 at intersections.
- In one calendar year, the NYPD officers that patrol Queens issued more than 4,300 summonses for cell phone use while driving, one of the most common driving distractions.
These tragic numbers only speak to some dangers of distracted driving in Queens and throughout New York City. They only include data from the NYPD, and not every accident gets reported to the police. Similarly, law enforcement officers try to identify anything contributing to an accident, but they do not always recognize and record when a distracted driver caused an accident.
What Constitutes Distracted Driving in Queens?
The national and state governments have primarily focused on hand-held cell phone use when implementing laws and beginning public education campaigns about distracted driving. In 2001, New York was the first to prohibit talking and driving, and they later outlawed texting and driving. Cell phones indeed lead to dangerous distracted driving accidents, but cell phones are far from the only distractions drivers in Queens face.
Agencies and organizations that research and analyze distracted driving and accompanying accidents generally agree that distracted driving includes manual, visual, and cognitive driving distractions. A particular situation or activity can fall under more than one of these umbrellas. For example, texting and driving is hazardous because it distracts a driver’s hands, eyes, and mind.
Some of the most common driving distractions that sometimes lead to car, truck, and motorcycle crashes include:
- Adjusting vehicle features such as radios, GPS, climate control, seats, etc.
- Eating snacks and drinking beverages while driving
- Combing hair, putting on makeup, and other personal grooming
- Picking up dropped items on the floor
- Reaching for items in the backseat
- Dealing with unruly or obnoxious passengers, especially for taxi drivers and rideshare drivers
- Focusing on events outside the vehicle
- Getting lost in one’s thoughts or daydreaming
Queens Distracted Driving Accident Victims Face Severe Injuries
Not all distracted driving accidents cause serious or fatal injuries, but many do. Those who are fortunate enough to escape a Queens distracted driving accident with minor injuries typically do not need to do more than file a claim under their mandatory New York personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Their benefits will take care of their medical expenses, and they likely only miss a day or two of work, if any. Those who suffer severe injuries typically need to rely on a skilled Queens car accident lawyer to help them recover losses related to the accident and their injuries.
Distracted driving injuries that typically require filing a claim against the at-fault driver include:
Many do not consider broken bones as a reason to file a Queens car accident claim. This is true in cases where an accident victim has a simple break that requires a handful of doctor visits, a cast or brace, and they make a full recovery. However, if a distracted driving accident victim suffers compound fractures or multiple fractures, healing isn’t as simple. Sometimes broken or crushed bones require reconstructive surgery that includes plates and screws. Even after surgery, patients deal with pain and/or discomfort for life.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Depending on the speed at which a Queens distracted driving accident occurs and the force of a crash, an accident victim can experience a direct or indirect head trauma that causes a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The most common brain injury is a concussion. Even so-called “mild” concussions can have long-lasting consequences for accident victims. More severe brain injuries, especially those that involve brain bleeds, can be life-threatening.
The long-term impact of a brain injury depends on the exact location in the brain and the amount of permanent brain damage someone suffers. TBI patients can struggle with remembering, thinking, communicating, and movement. Also, some cope with personality changes and mental health challenges such as depression.
Whiplash is the most common neck injury often associated with traffic accidents. It refers to the soft-tissue injuries an accident victim suffers in the neck when their head whips back and forth upon impact. These sprains or muscle strains may heal with time, but neck injuries can worsen. Sometimes distracted driving accident victims tear ligaments, tendons, or muscles. Other times, they break their necks and cope with damaged vertebrae and possible spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord injury in the neck often leads to permanent paralysis from the neck down.
Serious back injuries are commonplace in severe distracted driving accidents. Accident victims can suffer soft tissue injuries similar to those in the neck, such as strained muscles, sprained ligaments or tendons, or torn soft tissue. These are the mildest injuries. Many accident victims suffer worse injuries such as slipped discs and fractured vertebrae, which sometimes cause debilitating pain. These back injuries typically require corrective surgery and a diligent pain management regimen for victims to get through the day. Accident victims sometimes also experience spinal cord injuries that lead to permanent loss of function in parts of the body that cannot receive messages from the spinal cord.
Queens distracted driving accidents that occur at high speeds put those involved at risk for crushed limbs. In high-speed head-on collisions, the legs of drivers and front-seat passengers are especially vulnerable to get pinned and crushed under the dashboard and steering column. Severe limb crush stops blood flow into the affected limb, so it begins to die. After an accident, doctors make every effort possible to restore blood flow to a limb and avoid amputation. Sometimes restoring blood flow is impossible, and doctors must make the difficult decision to amputate to prevent infection from spreading throughout the body and causing death.
Recovering Losses After a Queens Distracted Driving Accident
New York’s no-fault insurance laws require anyone who registers a vehicle to purchase a minimum of $50,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. After a Queens distracted driving accident, anyone who suffers injuries files a claim under their own PIP policy regardless of who caused the accident. Even if a distracted driver crashed into you head-on while cruising down the Belt Parkway, your first step to recover economic loss is to file a claim under your own PIP policy.
In New York, PIP benefits cover reasonable and necessary medical treatment costs related to the accident, lost wages up to a maximum of $2,000 per month, and $25 per day for extra expenses such as transportation costs to and from the doctor. Policyholders can only collect PIP benefits up to their policy limit, and they cannot receive benefits for non-economic damages such as reduced quality of life. Finally, PIP benefits only extend to family members and policyholders on foot or on their bicycles. The policy does not cover those who suffer distracted driving accident injuries while on their motorcycle.
Once you’ve exhausted your own insurance options, your next step to recover losses after a Queens distracted driving accident is to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. Insurance companies go out of their way to deny and devalue claims to avoid large payouts, so you might have to file a lawsuit against the driver and their insurance company to recover compensation.
If you settle with the other side or you must go to trial, and a court finds in your favor, you could receive compensation for some or all of these damages related to the accident and your injuries:
- Medical expenses above and beyond what your PIP benefits paid for, including the closet of your hospital stay, surgery, diagnostic testing, follow-up doctor visits, medication, and travel expenses related to receiving treatment
- Estimated future medical expenses, which vary greatly among cases and include additional surgeries, ongoing treatment, and costs for residing in a transitional or long-term nursing care facility
- Costs for rehabilitation, which include specialized treatment with a variety of professionals who help accident victims cope with physical and emotional aspects of their injuries, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists
- Lost wages not already paid by PIP insurance benefits
- Estimated future lost wages, sometimes called lost earning capacity, if permanent injuries prevent you from going back to your job or working in the future
- Costs to modify your home to make it more accessible such as installing a wheelchair ramp, handrails, or grab bars, and creating a main floor living space if you cannot use stairs
- Costs for household help to replace any of the tasks you performed before your injuries, such as snow removal, lawn care, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child care
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Diminished quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Scarring and disfigurement, especially in the case of amputation or severe burns from a distracted driving accident
Families who lose a loved one from fatal injuries sustained in a Queens distracted driving accident sometimes also receive compensation by filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If you have lost a loved one, consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you on how to proceed with a wrongful death action.
How an Experienced Attorney Can Help You With Your Queens Distracted Driving Claim
It’s always best to consult with a lawyer after another driver causes injuries in a distracted driving accident. An attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and determine if you have a viable claim. If you choose to hire a lawyer, he or she will do more than file paperwork. Some ways an experienced Queens distracted driving attorney can help include:
- Gathering evidence and documents to support your claim against the distracted driver, such as medical documents, accident scene photos, and police reports;
- Contacting eyewitnesses and expert witnesses for statements and testimony to support your claim;
- Handling communication with insurance companies to prevent clients from saying something that might devalue their accident injury claim;
- Negotiating with insurance companies to ensure clients receive fair compensation for losses related to the accident and their injuries; and,
- Advocating for clients when negotiations fail and a case must go to trial.