Distracted driving is dangerous behavior that often results in serious injuries and fatalities. It is also negligent or careless behavior as California law states all drivers have a duty of care or a legal responsibility to stay focused on the road for the safety of others and themselves. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the actions of a distracted driver, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your damages and losses.
The fact that distracted driving continues to cause avoidable accidents every year is unfortunate. While most drivers acknowledge that driving while distracted is dangerous, many also admit that they engage in such behavior behind the wheel such as texting, talking on a cell phone, eating or reading. When inattention causes an accident or injuries, the negligent driver can be held financially responsible for the resulting losses such as injuries, disabilities, property damage and pain and suffering.
Most Common Driving Distractions
Here are some of the most common driving distractions that could result in a crash:
Using a Smartphone
Driving while talking on a cell phone, texting, or using social media can significantly increase the risk of a crash. A study by the AAA Foundation shows talking on a cell phone roughly quadruples a person's risk of being involved in a crash. Using a cell phone is probably the worst type of distraction because it causes drivers to take their hands off the wheel, eyes off the road and attention away from the act of driving.
While driving can be a good time to be left alone with your thoughts, taking your attention completely away from the act of driving can be extremely dangerous. Any type of inattention is also considered negligent driving.
Watching Roadside Diversions
Whether you are looking at a billboard or a fender bender on the roadway, looking at what is happening out on the street can be a dangerous distraction, which could result in a crash.
Adjusting Vehicle Controls
Fiddling with controls such as navigation, temperature settings or the radio could take your attention away from the road for longer than you think. Make sure all these controls are adjusted and ready before you start driving so your hands are on the steering wheel and attention is on driving.
Distracted Driving Accident Statistics
Here are a few key distracted driving statistics that show just how dangerous drivers who take their attention off the road can be:
- Nearly 3,000 people die in auto accidents because of distracted driving each year. This accounts for between 8% and 9% of all deadly crashes in the United States. In 2020 alone, 3,142 people died in crashes involving distracted driving. Of these, 396 deaths involved cell phone use.
- In 2020, 2,880 fatal accidents involved a distracted driver while 3,142 people died in crashes involving distracted driving. These numbers show that some collisions resulted in multiple fatalities.
- 8% of fatal car accidents occur because of distracted driving.
- Nine people die every day in crashes involving distracted driving.
- In 2020, 324,652 people were injured in car accidents caused by distracted driving.
What Causes Distracted Driving?
Talking on the phone: This is one of the main causes of distracted driving in the United States. Many believe that talking on the phone while hands-free is safer, but many studies show that having phone conversations hands-free can also be dangerous because they take the driver's attention away from driving.
Talking with another passenger: Having a conversation with your passenger may help pass the time as you drive. However, it can also divert your attention away from the road. Turning toward someone, as one naturally tends to do during a conversation, can also prove to be a visual distraction causing you to take your eyes off the road.
Moving objects or animals in the vehicle: Whether it's a pet along for the ride or a falling object in the vehicle, anything that moves in the vehicle as you're driving could be a dangerous distraction. When something slides off the seat, for example, we instinctively tend to reach for it. This could potentially result in a collision.
Adjusting objects and controls: There are a number of actions we perform in the car, from adjusting mirrors and rolling up windows to adjusting climate settings or navigation. These tasks divert the driver's attention and could pose a risk.
Eating or drinking: When you are eating or drinking while driving, you may have to use one hand to perform those tasks. If you drop food or spill your beverage, your attention may be diverted and you could end up crashing.
Children: There are a number of things that children can do to distract their parents. Distracted driving by kids can cause serious or fatal injuries. Actions such as throwing toys or bottles, fighting with siblings, and kicking the driver's seat are all possible actions that can cause a driver to become distracted.
What is the Average Settlement for a California Distracted Driving Lawsuit?
There is not necessarily an average settlement for distracted driving lawsuit settlements. Because each accident has its unique set of facts and circumstances, it can be challenging to assign a dollar value to an average distracted driving accident settlement. However, there are certain factors that are crucial in determining this settlement amount including:
Damages: In California, damages for victims of distracted drivers could be "economic" or "non-economic." Economic damages include medical expenses, property damage, loss of earnings and earning potential. In cases where distracted driving results in death, victims' families may also be entitled to receive lost future wages and funeral and burial costs.
While these types of damages have a finite monetary value attached to them, non-economic damages are those that do not have such a monetary value attached to them such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of society and companionship, etc. You may not have invoices to produce for such losses, but that does not make the damage and pain caused by a traumatic auto accident event any less real. California law also permits the recovery of punitive damages in distracted driving cases, which are awarded to punish the defendant for willful and dangerous conduct that causes serious injury or death.
Comparative fault or negligence: California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means damages are recoverable by someone based on the proportion of their fault. For example, in an accident involving a distracted driver, comparative fault might apply, for example, if a pedestrian struck by the distracted driver darted across the street where there was no crosswalk. In that case, in a civil claim, the pedestrian's actions could potentially come into play and have an impact on the eventual settlement amount for your auto accident, even though they may have been struck by a driver who was texting and driving. However, in California, you are entitled to compensation even if you are determined to have been at fault.
Texting and Driving Laws in California
Using a cell phone while driving in California is unlawful. California completely bans texting at all times while driving. The law prohibits drivers from using a cell phone or similar electronic communication device while driving. Drivers under the age of 18 are entirely prohibited from using a phone while driving a car, even if the device is hands free.
California imposes penalties for texting and driving. Motorists who are pulled over for distracted driving citations could be faced with a fine of up to $150 for their first violation. In 2019, California passed Assembly Bill 47, which increased the fine amount for first-time distracted driving offenses over $20. This law became effective in July 2021, with minimum fees increasing to $162 for the first offense and the imposition of additional fees depending on which county the citation is issued.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will also add a point to the person's driving record that will remain there for up to 36 months. This means drivers can expect to see increases in their insurance premiums and may need to attend a state-approved traffic school to have these points removed.
Steps to Take After a Los Angeles Distracted Driving Accident
If you have been injured in Los Angeles as a result of a car accident where you suspect the other driver may have been distracted, there are certain steps you can take after a car accident in order to protect your rights:
- Be sure to file a police report and obtain a copy of this report for your own records.
- If you suspect that the other driver was distracted or if you saw them texting or exhibiting other types of distracted behavior at the time of the accident, be sure to tell the officer who is writing the report.
- It is important that you get emergency medical attention for injuries suffered in the accident and follow up with your doctor for treatment. Getting prompt medical attention, treatment and care not only puts you on the path to recovery, but also creates a record of the types of injuries you sustained and the treatment you received after the accident.
- Gather as much evidence as possible from the scene including photos and videos as well as testimony from eyewitnesses who may have seen the driver acting distracted.
- Obtain contact and insurance information from all parties involved in the accident.
- Contact an experienced Los Angeles distracted driving accident lawyer who can help protect your rights and secure maximum compensation for your losses.
An Experienced Accident Attorney Can Help
The experienced Los Angeles car accident attorneys at the Vaziri Law Group, APC have a long and successful track record of obtaining compensation for those who have been seriously injured by negligent drivers, including distracted drivers. We understand that these types of accidents have the potential to cause permanent injuries, disabilities and significant financial strain for victims and their families. If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver in Los Angeles, call our law offices to schedule a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.