According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, distracted driving claimed approximately two thousand eight hundred and forty-one lives in 2018. Depending on the case circumstances, the distracted driver should compensate you for the losses incurred. It’s not always apparent after the car collision whether the responsible party was using their phone or texting. However, seasoned lawyers at Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney know the investigative methods used to tell if phone use or any other distraction caused the accident.
Distracted Driving Defined
Distracted driving happens when a driver does something that takes their hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, or concentration off operating the vehicle. There are three main categories of driving distractions, namely:
Texting falls in all the categories hence making it the most hazardous distraction. According to the National Safety Council, approximately three thousand people die in the United States every year due to distracted driving. Cell phone use is the most common driver distraction.
Other examples of distractions include the following:
- Navigating GPS - Motorists are dependent on GPS to get them from one point to the other. For many, it is not a choice. However, setting the GPS while driving is just as hazardous as using a cell phone.
- Adjusting controls or music - Maybe the driver is dying and needs to adjust the temperature. Or the stereo is too loud. Although it might look like a small thing pushing a button or two divides attention, particularly if the driver has to look away to perform the task.
- Tending to pets or children - It is not safe for a person to drive with an unrestrained pet in their vehicle. It is because when the pet moves around the vehicle or sits on the motorist’s lap, they become a distraction. Likewise, having children in a car can be hazardous. They fight, complain when they want things, yell, and it can be easy for the driver’s attention to be pulled from the road.
- Talking to passengers - If a driver has somebody riding with them, it is natural for them to have a conversation. However, the driver should focus on the road.
- Grooming and applying makeup - Sometimes, a driver just does not have time to look their best before jumping into a vehicle. Unluckily, many seem to have decided that driving offers the opportunity to add lipstick, wear deodorant, or comb their hair. These activities take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel and can easily cause an accident.
- Reading a billboard
- Emotional instability
- Reading maps, books, documents, or newspapers
- Drinking or eating
- Unsafe or improper lane changes
A reasonable motorist should be alert so that they can see a hazard, respond, and allow their vehicle to stop.
How to Prove a Distracted Driver Caused Your Car Accident
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted motorists cause approximately one in every five car accidents. However, if you were involved in a motor vehicle accident, how do you prove that the motorist was distracted? An accident caused by a distracted motorist is challenging to establish. For instance, if you were rear-ended, how can you tell that the other motorist was speeding or texting and could not respond in time? That is why it is essential to engage a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. The attorney will:
Use Expert Witness Testimony
The state of Florida allows experts in their area of expertise to give opinion testimony to the court. According to the law, if specialized, technical, or scientific knowledge will help a judge in comprehending the proof or in defining a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by skill, education, experience, or knowledge could testify about it as an opinion. That means a certified expert witness can analyze the proof and testify that it’s their opinion that a distracted motorist caused the car collision.
However, that doesn’t imply that the defendant can’t also have their expert challenge your expert’s testimony. For instance, the accused’s expert could argue that the approaches used to determine whether the accused was using their cell phone at the time of the accident weren’t accepted in the field and, therefore, the court shouldn’t use the testimony.
While an expert testimony might be an effective way to prove the motorist was distracted, it’s a high-end method. Lawyers rarely depend on expert testimonies unless the injury is severe, and the available proof is not enough to establish the distraction.
Collect Evidence Following the Accident
Another effective method to prove the motorist was distracted is gathering proof at the accident scene.
Take videos and photos of the car accident scene, including photographs of the inside of the other vehicle and tire marks. For instance, seeing an open food container or a phone on a car seat might be proof that the motorist’s mind wasn’t on the road, and their hands were not on the wheel.
If the police come to the accident scene, the responding law enforcers will ask all parties for their side of the story and include it in the police report. Usually, the at-fault motorist will say the truth, like how the accident distracted them or spilled their drink on their lap. The police report could later be used as proof of distracted driving.
Any experienced personal injury lawyer can also request for the motorist’s phone records during the crash as well as private or traffic video footage that shows what happened.
Understanding No-Fault Insurance Policy and Personal Injury Protection
One of the factors you should take note of when seeking compensation in Jacksonville is that Sunshine State uses no-fault insurance policy. The law requires people who sustained injuries first to seek compensation from their car insurance company.
All motorists in Florida should have a minimum of ten thousand dollars in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage through their insurer. The coverage offers compensation to victims regardless of who caused the accident provided the victim received treatment within two weeks of the collision.
The concept behind the no-fault law is preventing motorists from holding responsible parties accountable for costs that were incurred through minor damages. Those who wish to bring a liability lawsuit against the responsible person should do so outside the no-fault system, which requires satisfying specific requirements.
One of the eligibility requirements is having suffered a severe injury as a result of the distracted driving accident. A severe injury can be defined as either of the below:
- Permanent injury
- Permanent or significant injury
- Permanent or significant disfigurement
- An injury which has led to the loss of a bodily function
Irrespective of how minor or severe the car accident is, you should call your insurer following the accident.
Different Kinds of Damages Awarded
You might be wondering how much a personal injury lawsuit is worth. Although the exact figure varies depending on the accident circumstances, knowing the different types of damages can give you an idea concerning the case viability.
The term “damage” means the amount of money the injury will or has cost you. The distracted driver should compensate the plaintiff after a judge has issued an order or following compensation negotiations.
Compensatory damages are designed to pay off you for all losses incurred due to the accident. They are meant to return you to the position you were before the accident occurred.
There are several categories of compensatory damages. While some are easy to quantify, others are not. They include:
- Medical expenses - It can include doctor visits costs, surgeries, MRIs, and hospital stays. Some injuries have a lifetime impact. If your injury needs more surgical procedures, prostheses, physical therapy, and medication, these amounts should be counted in your settlement claim.
- Lost income - Following the accident, you might be unable to return to your work for a while. The income you would have made while seeking treatment should be included in your total settlement amount. You are also entitled to receive compensation if you are forced to cancel your vacation.
- Loss of earning capacity - These damages are awarded if your injury is permanent and causes you to miss out on future career advancement opportunities, forces you out of the career, or cannot work anymore.
- Property loss- Property loss damage seeks to replace or repair your car and other personal items that were damaged.
- Pain and suffering - Pain and suffering damages are awarded if the injury is causing you pain and discomfort. During the settlement process, insurance providers use a pain multiplier method to reach a reasonable and fair figure. It involves multiplying the total financial losses by a number that the insurance company deems suitable. Usually, it is between 1.5 and 5.
- Loss of consortium - This damage is related to your relationship, especially with your spouse. If your injury is so severe that it affects your companionship and sexual relationship, you will recover the loss of consortium damages.
- Emotional distress - Car accident victims also experience anxiety, fear, loss of sleep, grief, among other psychological pain. Emotional distress is difficult to prove. You can use psychiatric records and medical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder to verify the condition.
Punitive damages are tailored to punish the at-fault party for their malicious, intentional, and inexcusably negligent conduct. Unlike compensatory damages, these damages don’t offer a sense of vengeance to the plaintiff but stand as an example to deter other drivers from acting egregiously.
Please note, Florida limits punitive damages in motor vehicle collision claims to either five hundred thousand dollars or three (3) times the total compensatory amount, whichever is greater.
Wrongful death damages are awarded when a distracted driving accident results in the death of the victim. The deceased’s loved ones receive compensation for:
- Loss of financial support
- Funeral costs
- Burial expenses
How Much Compensation Will You Receive If You Are Partially Responsible for the Accident?
Florida uses a comparative negligence rule. In other words, after the accident liability is determined and apportioned among all the parties involved, the amount of compensation a plaintiff recovers is limited by every party’s share of responsibility. Consequently, your percentage of liability reduces your total compensation amount.
For instance, if you are believed to be twenty percent negligent for causing the accident, your total damages will be reduced by twenty percent. Therefore, if the total compensation amount is one hundred thousand dollars, you’ll receive eighty thousand dollars.
Comparative negligence explains why insurance firms work hard to shift blame to the accident victims.
That is also why you should be careful when you decide to speak with the other party’s insurer. Whatever you say to them can be used against you when determining fault. No matter how sympathetic or friendly their representative might seem, they don’t have your best interests at heart.
It is advisable to engage a seasoned personal injury attorney before talking to anyone. The attorney knows which evidence is needed to prove the distracted driver caused your accident. Also, the attorney is experienced in protecting plaintiffs’ rights when handling insurance providers.
Most Common Injuries Caused by Distracted Driver
While injuries caused by a distracted driver vary with accidents and persons, here is an overview of the most common injuries:
These are injuries to tendons, muscles, or ligaments. They happen when your body moves suddenly and faster than you can ever move. The trauma strains soft tissues and muscles without breaking your bones.
If not well treated, head injuries like traumatic brain injuries could result in long-term complications with the brain, sleeping challenges, and headaches. It can be hard to diagnose a brain injury, and you need a treatment plan to avoid any complications.
Cuts and Scrapes
You can get cut injuries as a result of the impact of your motor vehicle or the other car. Loose objects in the vehicle, such as your phone, can cause cuts and scrapes. These types of injuries are not only painful but also pose a risk for complications and infection.
A distracted driving car accident exerts an unnatural force on the body. When the force is more than what the bones can withstand, you risk suffering a break. A broken bone requires a lengthy recovery period.
Ribs are fragile (even a moderate or light impact can lead to broken ribs injuries). These injuries happen when the accident’s impact pushes you sideways, forward, and backward.
A herniated disc injury happens when a vertebra in the spine either moves out of place or ruptures.
The unexpected impact of the collision can make your knees hit the dashboard, causing pain to the kneecap and ligaments. You might require crutches, surgery, or braces to rebuild the knee and correct the damage. Knee injuries are painful and can result in walking challenges.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Not all distracted driving injuries are physical. The accident can cause emotional and mental injuries. Moreover, things which used to be routine might become difficult or even impossible. Luckily, you can recover emotional distress damages in Florida.
Another common type of injury suffered in a distracted driving car accident is internal bleeding. Internal bleeding can be fatal if not treated immediately following the accident. Therefore, it is advisable to seek medical attention even if you suffered minor injuries.
What You Should Know About the Distracted Driving Settlement Process
A personal injury lawsuit can be overwhelming. The claim process involves deliberate steps that must be followed if you want to receive compensation.
The first step should be hiring a lawyer. Your accident claim will be handled more effectively and efficiently with a legal expert by your side.
How Long Does It Take to Settle Your Distracted Driving Case?
Depending on when you hire an attorney, the claim could take a couple of months to settle.
It is essential to note that there is a statute of limitations that enforces deadlines in which you should bring your lawsuit. In Florida, you’ve four (4) years to bring a personal injury lawsuit. Once the deadline passes, you will not be in a position to file the claim.
Discussed below is an overview of an injury claim process in Florida.
1. Demand Letter
A demand letter is that formal letter that you send to the insurance provider. It should include your argument for why the insurance firm should compensate you. It includes:
- A summary of your injuries
- Why the accused is lawfully accountable
- Medical treatments received and the total cost incurred
- The income you’ve lost as a result of the injury
- Other damages incurred like emotional distress
The insurance adjuster will analyze your case and determine whether to compensate you or not. The insurer may decline the claim due to:
- Lack of enough evidence
- Because the insurer thinks the distracted driver did not cause the accident
- Because they think you caused the car crash
If the insurer refuses to pay or offers you a low initial offer, you and your attorney should move to the next stage.
2. Bringing a Complaint
Filing a complaint notifies both the defendant and the court that a claim has been brought. Although complaints are commonly brought against insurance firms, lawsuits could be brought against businesses, government agencies, or private citizens.
It will also outline facts about the parties involved, and the court will issue jurisdiction over the claim. Moreover, it will ask for judgment.
The complaint should include:
- The parties involved
- The distracted driver’s legal claims
- Proof that supports your claim
- The jurisdiction of the court over your case
- Demand for judgment indicating your total compensation amount
After your complaint is filed, you have approximately thirty (30) days to serve the distracted driver of your complaint.
After the distracted motorist has been informed, they have thirty (30) days to reply to your complaint. In case they do not respond, the judge will rule a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor. Should the defendant respond, the case proceeds as usual.
3. Discovery Process
Just like it sounds, the discovery process involves discovering information concerning your case. It is a fundamental part of the legal process since both your personal injury lawyer and the defendant’s defense gather proof, interview witnesses, investigate the claim, and question all the involved parties. Moreover, the attorneys will collect medical bills, police reports, wage details, and insurance reports. Depending on the case facts, it might take the form of Examination Under Oath.
Moreover, either attorney could bring motions to the court. The motions may be brought to have the personal injury lawsuit delayed, dismissed, or for a judgment to be arrived at.
Most distracted driving claims don’t reach this stage. It is because most cases are settled prior to proceeding to trial through mediation (planned negotiations).
A settlement can be defined as an agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant to close the case after reaching certain arrangements. More often than not, the plaintiff drops the claim in exchange for compensation. Once the compensation amount is agreed upon, it’s put into writing, and your settlement finalized. Then the jury analyzes the agreement, and it is a legally binding contract.
On top of the agreed settlement amount, the contract has other conditions like an agreement not to disclose the total compensation amount.
If the parties cannot settle, the claim will proceed to trial. The jury will listen to all parties before deciding. The jury can decide the defendant is responsible for your car accident injuries and the compensation amount. They can also choose the defendant isn’t at-fault and dismiss your claim.
After the court ruling, both the defendant and the plaintiff have limited time to decide if they will accept the ruling or bring an appeal.
Find Legal Representation Near Me
Distracted driving can result in severe injuries. After a distracted driving accident, you might be wondering how you will pay medical costs or even recover from financial losses incurred. At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, we believe that you should not worry about the medical bills, which are due to another person’s negligence and carelessness. A personal injury lawsuit could offer you financial security as well as a way to move forward. Your road to recovery starts with booking an initial consultation. We can review the case and assist you in deciding on the way forward. Call us today at 904-800-7557 to get started.