No matter the area in which we live, we share the road with distracted drivers more often than we might think. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, of the 540,561 car accidents that occurred on Texas roads in 2018 alone, nearly twenty percent were caused by distracted driving. From the tired mother who is trying to quiet down her two crying children in the back seat to the teenager who is sending a quick text to his parents to say he’ll be a bit late coming home, our roads are full of drivers who are not focusing fully behind the wheel. Oftentimes, we don’t realize that a driver is distracted until it is too late.
Unfortunately, if you are the victim of a car accident that was caused by a driver that was not paying attention, you already know that the pain that you suffer extends far beyond the physical level. The mental toll that an accident can take on you can be immense, and your financial stability can be toppled in no time.
Distracted drivers don’t necessarily fit a profile; rather, any driver who is not fully focused on the road ahead of them can be considered a distracted driver. These distractions can come in many different forms.
As a driver, it’s nearly impossible to keep your eyes on the road 100% of the time. However, when a driver’s eyes stray away from the road, he or she is not operating the vehicle in a safe manner. A person can be considered to be visually distracted when he or she stops watching the road for long enough to create an unsafe driving condition. Whether a person is looking at a GPS to figure out their next turn or absentmindedly observing an accident on the other side of the street, if an accident is caused as a result of looking away from the road, the driver fell victim to visual distraction. In congested areas like Mesquite or I-15 near Salt Lake during rush hour, accidents stemming from visual distraction can occur in a matter of seconds.
One of the first things that we are taught as new drivers is to keep our hands on the wheel. While we sometimes have to take our hands off the steering wheel to turn on a blinker or shift gears, our hands should otherwise stay on the wheel in order to operate a vehicle in a safe manner. Manual distractions occur when a driver takes his or her hands off the wheel to do something while driving. Eating while driving and fiddling with the air conditioner or radio are prime examples of a person operating a vehicle while manually distracted.
When a driver is preoccupied with thoughts other than the road ahead, he or she is cognitively distracted. It doesn’t matter whether the person is stewing over a stressful day at the office on his way home from work, or lamenting over an argument that she had with her spouse earlier that day—if the person’s thoughts detract from their ability to pay attention to the road, a dangerous situation can occur very quickly.
One of the most dangerous—and most common—forms of distracted driving is texting while driving. Because of all of the functions that go into sending a text message, a person experiences all three forms of distraction in the process. In order to read or respond to a text message, a driver must take his or her eyes off the road to look at the phone and at least one hand is needed to do so. A person can become so focused on the conversation that they stop mentally paying attention to the road.
In order to prevail in a personal injury claim caused by a distracted driver, your attorney must prove that the at-fault driver was negligent. Negligence is a legal theory which simply means that a person failed to exercise an appropriate standard of care in a specific circumstance—in this case, driving. Four elements encompass the theory of negligence, and each element must be shown in order for a personal injury case to be successful.
Duty –When a person gets behind the wheel, he or she owes a duty of care to all other people on the road to drive in a responsible and safe manner.
Breach – It’s not enough that your attorney can prove that a distracted driver owed you a duty of care; he or she must also prove that the driver did not live up to this duty. Proving this “breach” of duty essentially means showing that the driver was not paying attention to the road when the accident occurred.
Causation – Once your attorney proves that a duty of care to you was breached by the distracted driver, it must be shown that the accident occurred because of the driver’s distraction, and not because of some other unrelated cause.
Damages. Lastly, your attorney must prove that you suffered “damages” because of the accident caused by the distracted driver. This is usually the easiest element of negligence to prove and include the physical damage to your vehicle as well as the physical and emotional suffering you experienced.
A successful personal injury case can provide financial compensation—also known as “damages”—to you for various aspects of the accident that you suffered. Damages available in a personal injury case include compensation for:
Medical bills incurred as a result of the accident, such as hospital stays, surgical costs, rehabilitation, medication, and medical equipment such as a wheelchair;
Lost wages that you were not able to receive as a result of missing time from work after your accident;
Lost earning capacity if you were left permanently disabled after your accident;
Physical pain that you suffered during and after your accident;
Emotional trauma that you suffered as a result of your accident and injuries, such as depression, anxiety, or insomnia; and
Physical damages caused to your vehicle that was involved in the accident.
In particularly egregious cases of distracted driving, a victim may be awarded additional “punitive” damages. These damages are not meant to compensate the victim for anything that he or she has suffered; rather, they are meant to punish the distracted driver who caused the accident and deter others from making similar decisions in the future.
If you’ve been involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver in Mesquite or a surrounding area in Texas, there is no time like the present to discuss your legal remedies with a personal injury attorney. When you entrust your case into the hands of the Fielding legal team, you can rest assured knowing that your interests are being represented by an attorney whose mission is to obtain a result that is both fair and favorable to you. Our attorneys are dedicated to taking the burden of a personal injury claim off of your hands so that you can focus on what truly matters after a car accident—recovering to the fullest extent possible.
Don’t wait any longer to obtain the quality legal representation you deserve for the injuries you suffered at the hands of a distracted driver. No matter the time or day, a member of the Fielding legal team is on standby to discuss your rights when it comes to your accident. To schedule a free consultation with a Fielding Law attorney, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (877) 880-4090 today.