The Impact of Distracted Driving on Car Accident Claims in California

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Distracted driving is extremely common today with the prevalence of cell phones and so many other distractions available to drivers. It is also extremely dangerous: distracted driving was reported to have claimed an average of 3,308 lives across the U.S. in 2022.

If you are involved in a distracted driving crash, the aftermath of it all can be tricky, and there are certain details to keep in mind when filing a claim. However, if you know the laws around distracted driving, you’ll have a better idea of how to react in the event of a crash. Our Downey car accident lawyers can help!

What Counts as a Distracted Driving Accident?

Distracted driving is anything that takes your attention off the road while you’re driving. This can be messing with the controls on your car, putting on makeup, attending to children in the backseat, looking at what’s happening on the side of the road, and more.

There are three main types of distracted driving:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off driving

Cell phone use is the most prominent form of distracted driving and also one of the most dangerous. In 2021, 140 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in California, and cell phone use while driving was one of the biggest factors. Sending or reading text messages while driving takes your eyes off the road for five seconds, which is like going as far as a football field in that amount of time.

Who Is Liable in a Distracted Driving Crash?

Typically the person engaged in distracted driving is the one held liable in the event of a crash.

They become responsible for damages to the other party’s personal and vehicular damages due to their negligence in choosing not to pay attention to the road.

Negligence in driving means the distracted driver is not upholding their duty to use reasonable care when driving. Drivers should be able to respond to unpredictable events on the road, and if someone is intentionally not paying attention, then they are neglecting their duty to other drivers.

What Are the Laws Around Distracted Driving in California?

States come up with their own distracted driving laws, and they are not necessarily uniform across the country. For example, only 34 states explicitly prohibit the use of handheld cell phones while driving, and 49 states ban texting while driving. States often have different laws around cell phone use for young drivers or bus drivers.

California has its own specific laws around cell phone use and distracted driving. In this state, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, but hands-free modes, such as speaker phones or voice commands, are allowed. The use of cell phones for any reason and in any way is only banned for novice drivers under the age of 18 and school bus drivers.

In California, if drivers are caught in violation of these laws, they receive a fine of a minimum of $162, which increases with each violation.

How Does Distracted Driving Affect Claims in California?

When it comes to distracted driving claims in California, these are governed by the state’s personal injury laws. The victim in a distracted driving accident can incur numerous expenses, such as hospital bills, damage to their vehicle, loss of income, as well as the physical and emotional toll of injuries that can have a lifetime of consequences.

For the distracted driver, beyond having to pay a fine, they could be held responsible for compensating the victim of the crash. These can include any economic expenses like vehicle repairs or medical expenses, as well as other noneconomic damages, such as compensation for their pain and suffering.

While negligence laws make the person who is entirely at fault for the crash responsible for compensation to the victim, there is also the chance that two or more parties take responsibility.

This falls under California’s laws of comparative negligence where even if someone is partially responsible for the accident, they can still file a claim for financial compensation. Even if the distracted driver is mostly at fault for the crash, they can still file a claim if the other party also has some fault as well.

How You Can Take Action

Taking action against distracted driving is as easy as putting the phone down and keeping your eyes on the road. Do not multitask while driving so that you can stay focused. Ask your passengers to handle phone calls/texts or any other tasks that would distract you. If you don’t have anyone else in the car with you, pull over if you need to do anything that requires taking your attention off the road.

And if you’ve been involved in a distracted driving crash? While on the scene, take detailed photos of the damage and report the incident to your insurance provider. File a police report and save it for your records. Finally, whether you were on the receiving end of the crash or you were the distracted driver, be sure to contact our team at The JLF Firm to get trusted attorneys on your side to help you sort out your next steps.

Get in touch with us today to get started with your FREE case review. We’re only a call, click, or short drive away.