Smartphones allow us to hold the world at our fingertips, and make great companions for road trips. We can play music, get directions, and make reservations at the push of a button. Using a smartphone while you’re behind the wheel, however, is an extremely dangerous form of distracted driving.
Unfortunately, distracted driving is becoming more and more common, and racks up millions of dollars in damages every year. From getting a ticket to receiving compensation for your damages, here is everything you need to know about distracted driving:
What Is Distracted Driving?
The name says it all, doesn’t it? Distracted driving is anything that takes your attention off the road. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Applying makeup
- Using a map to figure out directions
- Using a mobile device
- Talking to other passengers
In recent years, the most notorious form of distracted driving has been texting and driving. Teenagers usually take most of the blame for this dangerous habit, but people of all ages and driving abilities are guilty of this habit. At any given moment during daylight hours, 660,000 vehicles are being driven by someone who is texting and driving.
With so many people out there driving distracted, it should come as little surprise that that serious car accidents often follow. Distracted driving took the lives of 3,179 people and injured 431,000 more in 2014.
Where does our state stack up? Florida is considered one of the most dangerous states for drivers. The Sunshine State consistently has dangerously high rates of auto accidents due to a wide variety of causes, but distracted driving has been near the top of that list in recent years. It took the lives of 214 people and injured over 39,000 people in 2015 – just in Florida.
What Are the Rules Against Distracted Driving in Florida?
In 2013, the “Florida Ban on Texting and Driving Law” went into effect. This prohibits any driver from “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device.”
Unfortunately, it is considered a “secondary law,” meaning that a police officer cannot pull you over and give you a ticket solely on the grounds of texting and driving. However, if you are pulled over for violating a primary traffic law (like speeding or running a stop sign,) you can be given an additional ticket for texting and driving.
As you can imagine, many people do not believe this is enough. There has already been additional legislation proposed to strengthen the existing law or add another one.
Distracted Driving and Lawsuits
In most Florida auto accidents, your insurance will cover damages and losses, regardless of fault. However, in cases of serious or permanent injury, you can sue the other driver or party to pay for your damages and losses. These lawsuits follow the rules of comparative negligence, where compensation is distributed based on fault.
Keep in mind that a plaintiff cannot recover damages if he or she is found to be 50% responsible. This is especially important to remember if one or more of the drivers in an accident are found guilty of distracted driving.
For example, say a major car accident leaves one driver with permanent scarring. This driver decides to sue the other driver for $20,000. The defendant was on the phone while he was driving, but the plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt. A judge may determine that due to distracted driving, the defendant is 70% at fault, and the plaintiff is 30% at fault. Because of this, even if they win the full amount that they sue for, they will only be entitled to $14,000 in damages.
If you or a loved one were involved in an accident involving distracted driving, it is important to discuss your options. Call an experienced Florida personal injury attorney today for a free consultation.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.