Every one of us knows that we should not drive while sending or reading a text, checking email, social media or watching a video. This is common sense.
Because make no mistake, this is the single most dangerous thing facing our children on the road. And as parents it frightens us.
You can read the statistics about the increase in smartphone related distracted driving accidents below. But we all know the truth.
Every time we get in a car, or walk down the street, we see another driver looking down at their phone.
Every. Single. Time.
Sometimes the driver doesn't veer out of their lane. Often they do. And sometimes they veer far out of the lane, only to “catch” themselves and head back.
When a person is on the road, they should be dedicated to providing their attention to themselves and the other drivers. Distracted driving places not only the driver's life in serious danger but also poses a serious threat to anyone else on the road. Distracted driving can take the form of several actions. From engaging in conversation with others, to texting while on the road, a driver can be distracted in several ways. No matter how a driver is distracted, however, one thing remains certain, their risk for causing an accident increases significantly.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has compiled a number of statistics on how distracted driving affects people nationwide. The administration reports that a total of 3,477 were killed in distracted driving accidents in the year 2015. This number is out of 391,000 total accidents that involved distracted driving. The administration also estimated that about 660,000 drivers are making use of their phones while driving during daytime hours. According to the New York Post, NYPD issued over 75,000 summonses to drivers specifically for texting and driving, and that's just in the city alone. Distracted driving is common, and its dangers can be severe.
Distracted Driving Cases in New York
When a person is the victim of a distracted driving accident, they may be entitled to compensation depending on the situation at hand. Distracted driving can be the cause of many accidents, and in some cases, the driver that engages in this behavior may be considered negligent in their behavior. Depending on the situation, a person may file either a personal injury claim or a wrongful death claim, if necessary. Distracted driving can happen with a common individual a person shares the road with or can occur with professional, commercial vehicle drivers. This can mean that more than one defendant may be named in these cases.
Injuries Common To Distracted Driving
Distracted driving can cause many injuries in an accident. Some common injuries that are seen in a case for both car accidents, and especially accidents involving distracted driver include:
- Traumatic Injuries: A traumatic injury is one that places a person's life in danger, and requires immediate emergency medical attention. In an accident at high speeds, these can be common.
- Disabilities/Permanent Injuries: In any accident, a person has a chance to suffer a life-altering accident. A permanent injury is one that results in a disability or the need for long-term care.
- Death: The sad truth of any accident on the road is that at times, they may result in a person's death.
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Compensation in Distracted Driving Cases
While a distracted driving case can share much in common with a car accident, there are certain specifics that may apply. "Damages" refers to losses that the plaintiff may claim in a civil case. Damages may correspond to a number of aspects in the scenario In cases involving distracted drivers.
Economic damages are losses associated with an accident that a plaintiff can fairly easily prove to a court. In auto accidents, these often include medical costs. This can include the costs immediately resulting from an injury, such as hospitalization and/or surgery. This can also include follow-up treatment, such as physical or occupational therapy. In addition, future medical costs can be estimated and included in your compensation. Another common element of auto accidents includes property damage. Damage or a total loss to your vehicle can be included in a damage award.
Lost wages are another type of economic damages that typically accompany serious injury. In addition to the period of time an individual is out of work in the immediate wake of an injury, there might be additional missed work due to follow-up care, or, in some extreme cases, an inability to sustain employment at the level preceding the accident due to the severity of the injuries. Loss of income, as well as decreased future wages, can be claimed in a personal injury lawsuit.
Non-economic damages are losses that cannot be easily translated into a dollar figure. These can include things like pain and suffering, loss of the ability to bear a child, and mental anguish. Testimony from psychiatrists and other experts can help to attribute a monetary figure to these types of losses.
New York Distracted Driving Laws
New York has specific laws for traffic offenses that involve distracted driving. Under New York law, an officer may stop someone simply because they see them making use of a phone while driving. The offense itself carries up to 5 points on a person's license and has very steep penalties for person's with provisional licenses or learner's permits. In addition, these laws place significant restrictions on how operators of commercial vehicles may interact with their phones. The penalties for these offenses increases with each offense, and can potentially result in a loss of license if a person accrues enough points on their license.
While violations of these laws is a traffic offense and handled in a municipal or state court, the acts that constitute these offenses are often the cause of accidents that result in injuries, or worse. A person, or in some cases, a company, may be held civilly liable, especially if they were found guilty of a distracted driving offense. Oftentimes, the same evidence used in court to convict a distracted driver on a traffic offense can also be used in a civil case to show that the distracted driver's negligence contributed to the accident.
New York also requires all drivers on the road to maintain insurance. Minimal insurance in New York is $10,000 of coverage for property damage in a single accident. For a single individual that is injured, a person must have $25,000 for injury and $50,000 in coverage for a death. For events that injure or kill more than two individuals, the state requires $50,000 of coverage for injury and $100,000 for death.
How do we stop this epidemic?
As parents, distracted drivers keeps us up at night. It has to stop. But how?
First, we educate. We believe that we must make efforts to educate both teenagers and adults against the real world risks associated with distracted driving. Because this is not limited to teenagers. We have friends who are just as guilty.
As trial lawyers we have joined the organization End Distracted Driving, and Scott has made a personal commitment to reach as many individuals in New York's Capital District as possible to address this problem, through speeches, presentations and leadership.
Second, we litigate. Reality is that some people don't learn from education, they need to see real world examples of the risks of distracted driving. To that end, we represent victims and their families who have been injured or killed by distracted drivers. We will use every tool available to change the behavior and culture surrounding distracted driving, and sometimes that will mean making examples of those who choose to continue to take this unnecessary risk despite the clear evidence of the danger this behavior presents.
If a terrorist organization killed over 3000 people and injured 400,000 people every year we would be at war in a heartbeat. These are the statistics, yet as a society we are not doing enough to squash this epidemic.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a distracted driver, contact attorney D'Orazio Peterson today. Or read more about what to do if you've been the victim of a distracted driving accident.