Distracted Driving and Personal Injury Cases
Written by Shawn Diederich on January 6, 2016
Although we often associate car accidents with driving under the influence of alcohol, distracted driving is just as big a problem for Florida drivers. “Distracted” driving can refer to any activity a driver does which takes away from his or her ability to concentrate on the road. The most common distracted driving activity is talking or texting on a portable communications device. But distracted driving activities can also include fixing your hair or makeup, eating or drinking, reaching for an item underneath the seats, dealing with pets or children in the back seat, or even looking at another accident on the road.
Is Distracted Driving Illegal?
In 2013, the Florida legislature adopted the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law.” As the title suggests, this law bans motorists from “texting, emailing, and instant messaging” on any “wireless communications device” while simultaneously operating a motor vehicle. The law does not apply when the vehicle is stationary or to other uses of electronic devices, such as listening to the radio or reading instructions from a navigational system.
Florida’s texting ban is also considered a secondary violation. This means a police officer cannot pull you over solely for texting while driving. But if an officer cites you for a primary violation, such as failing to obey a speed limit, you may also be charged with violating the state’s texting-while-driving ban.
Distracted Driving by the Numbers
While Florida law may not seem to treat texting while driving as that big of a deal, its potential danger cannot be understated. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 3,100 people are killed throughout the United States each year in accidents attributed to distracted drivers. In addition, more than 420,000 people are injured in distracted driving accidents. Closer to home, Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles figures indicate there has been a 25 percent increase in distracted driving accidents within the state since 2012. And nearly half of all Florida distracted driving accidents were caused by drivers under the age of 30.
Distracted Driving and Comparative Negligence
If you are seriously injured in a car accident through no fault of your own, evidence of distracted driving can prove critical in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit. Cell phone records, for example, can establish whether a driver was texting while driving at the precise moment of an accident. Florida’s texting while driving ban expressly authorizes police to obtain such records.
And even if distracted driving was not the sole or major cause of a car accident, it may be enough to establish a driver’s partial liability. Florida is a comparative negligence state, meaning a jury can assign fault by percentage to different parties whose actions contributed to a given accident. Keep in mind, however, this can be a double-edged sword. If you were driving while texting, that may reduce the amount of any damages you receive, even if the other driver is still held to be primarily at fault.
Indeed, distracted driving is just one potential cause of an accident. That is why it is important to work with an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney who understands the law. Contact the Diedrich Law Firm, P.A., today if you need to speak with someone right away.