Orange County Distracted Driving Accident Attorneys
Most people in the U.S. have smartphones, and distracted driving has become a real threat on the roadways. The number of people who talk on handheld phones, whether for work or personal reasons, has increased to 3.2% in 2018, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), putting more pedestrians and drivers at risk of a serious accident. In addition, the NHTSA has found that 9.7% of all drivers in the United States have used a phone – either handheld or hands-free – while operating a vehicle. This means an estimated 472,486 drivers of passenger vehicles have held cell phones to their ears while driving in any typical daylight moment.
This very real threat can result in serious property damage, catastrophic injuries, and tragic deaths that were entirely avoidable. Victims of this reckless behavior deserve proper compensation. At Allen Flatt Ballidis & Leslie, our Orange County car accident attorneys have over 40 years of collective experience assisting distracted driving victims in moving on after an accident. Call us at (949) 752-7474 to receive thorough and invaluable legal advice.
Every day in the U.S., approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in automobile accidents involving distracted drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Distracted driving is a dangerous activity that claimed a staggering 3,166 lives in a single recent year, as reported by the NHTSA. Distracted driving can be defined as any activity that diverts the driver’s attention away from operating the motor vehicle. This includes:
- Talking on the phone
- Checking emails
- Eating or drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Grooming or applying makeup
- Adjusting in-vehicle systems
- Using a navigation system
The most egregious of these actions involve the use of a cell phone, which is only going to increase as our world becomes more and more digitally connected. Safety measures to curb cell phone use while driving, such as hands-free software and Bluetooth connectivity in newer cars, may be important updates in the battle against distracted driving, but it has yet to completely eliminate the threat.
The number one cause of motor vehicle accidents is driver error, and distracted driving is among the most common and dangerous errors. Drivers who are texting, talking on the phone, or otherwise distracted cause a wide range of traffic crashes, including:
- Rear-end collisions: Rear-impact car accidents often occur in heavy traffic when the driver behind is following too closely and/or not paying attention. This can easily occur when the driver is focused on using a cell phone or engaged in another type of distraction.
- T-bone accidents: Many side-impact collisions occur when a driver runs a red light or stop sign. This type of crash is also common when a left-turning driver fails to yield the right-of-way to an oncoming car or motorcycle. T-bone collisions are more likely to occur when drivers are distracted.
- Head-on collisions: Frontal or head-on collisions can cause serious, catastrophic, or fatal injuries. They can occur when distracted drivers take a turn too wide or enter traffic traveling in the wrong direction on a one-way street.
- Pedestrian accidents: Pedestrians are completely unprotected and vulnerable to serious injuries in a collision with a motor vehicle. They can be hit by distracted drivers who fail to notice pedestrians in crosswalks, parking lots, and side streets.
In California, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while holding a phone in your hand, according to California Vehicle Code Sections 23123. This law states that drivers cannot use a cell phone while driving unless the phone is in hands-free mode and the driver is 18 years or older. In addition, any driver under age 18 is forbidden from using a cell phone while driving, whether or not they are using hands-free equipment or software.
Hands-free mode includes:
- Speaker phones
- Bluetooth headsets
- Voice-activated software
If a driver violates this law, they may face criminal charges, usually just a traffic infraction that amounts to a point on their license and/or a $20 fine for the first offense and a $50 fine for the second offense. However, if their actions led to a serious auto accident, they may face additional charges, including a suspended license and potential jail time.
Whether the other driver is charged may not impact your case, so you should not be concerned if the other driver does not receive penalties when the police investigate your accident. Your claim will be with the driver’s insurance policy, rather than the actual driver who caused your injuries. A criminal charge or traffic ticket can help your case and show how the driver acted negligently, but it is not necessary to receive compensation. Even if the charges against the other driver are dropped, you can still pursue a claim.
In serious accidents, it is possible to receive punitive damages if the other driver is charged in a criminal court, but these proceedings are separate from your insurance claim. You can contact the Orange County District Attorney's Office to request that the driver be prosecuted, however. While the District Attorney is under no obligation to prosecute the driver for violations of the code, victims of should be heard. It is worthwhile to write a letter advising the circumstances of the accident, how it occurred, and the frustration you had with the lack of responsibility of the other driver. The District Attorney may require your testimony at a criminal hearing or trial, and if you asked that the matter be prosecuted, then you should expect that you will be subpoenaed to that trial.
It can be difficult for officers to prove that a driver was distracted, especially if no one saw the driver using a cell phone or looking away from the road. As a result, distracted driving is often underreported. In some cases, it may be your word against the other driver’s, and he won’t admit to fault if it could harm his driving record or lead to additional charges. However, even if an accident report does not say that the driver was distracted or violated the law, you can still utilize other resources to support your claim when you work with an attorney at Allen Flatt Ballidis & Leslie.
Our legal team is well-versed in investigating distracted driving accidents and can work with a variety of experts to review the details of your case. One resource at our disposal is accident reconstructionists, trained experts who specialize in determining how an accident occurred. By visiting the scene of the accident, speaking to witnesses, reviewing the damage to your car, reading police reports, and analyzing accident scene photos, a reconstructionist can determine how your accident occurred and whether the other driver was distracted.
Data from the at-fault driver’s phone, including call and texting records, social media activity, and background data, may also be pivotal in proving the driver was liable. The best chance at acquiring this information and utilizing it in a personal injury claim is with the aid of a knowledgeable car accident attorney.
Surveillance footage can be useful as well, especially if a nearby ATM or store’s security camera caught the driver using a cell phone. Oftentimes, you will need to secure footage from a private security feed rather than traffic cameras. Traffic cameras in Orange County are largely used for live feeds and do not record footage of drivers, meaning you cannot rely on them to prove distracted driving. However, some Orange County cities have red-light cameras that issue tickets when a driver runs a red light, including:
- Costa Mesa
- Garden Grove
- Santa Ana
- San Juan Capistrano
If a distracted driver caused your injuries, then you do have a claim against the driver and their insurance company. But insurance companies are not in the business of being charitable and may attempt to minimize the amount of money they pay you. However, our skilled injury attorneys at Allen Flatt Ballidis & Leslie will never dismiss your injuries and can advocate for the full value of your claim.
Naturally, the amount of your award will depend on losses that you have suffered: your medical bills, pain and suffering, wage loss, and property damage. We can assess the amount of damages in your case after you had an opportunity to fully heal from your condition. We do not recommend that clients settle their cases until there is a thorough understanding of all of their likely damages.
Our Orange County personal injury lawyers at Allen Flatt Ballidis & Leslie have the necessary expertise and familiarity with distracted driving cases to properly review every aspect of your case. We have won hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for our clients and will work tirelessly to ensure you receive proper compensation. Call us at (949) 752-7474 to schedule a free, initial consultation of your accident.
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