Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving in California

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Driving safely requires full concentration, but many people choose to eat, text, and look at their phones while behind the wheel. These distracted driving behaviors often lead to crashes that can injure or kill others on the road. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving resulted in 3,142 people killed and 424,000 injured nationwide in 2019.

Young adults and teens are most likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In fact, 9 percent of teens who were killed in vehicle crashes in 2018 died in accidents involving distracted driving.

The Scott Carr Law Firm is dedicated to helping victims of distracted driving accidents get the financial resources they need to recover. If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver om the San Francisco Bay Area, contact our San Francisco office at 415-799-2229 to learn about your options to pursue compensation.

What Constitutes Distracted Driving in California?

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) provides details on the state’s distracted driving laws. According to OTS, it’s illegal to use a handheld cell phone or electronic communication device while driving. You may use a device in a hands-free setting (e.g. speakerphone), but you can’t hold it in your hand. Additionally, drivers under 18 years of age are prohibited from using a cell phone for any reason.

California law also discourages other distracting behaviors. OTS states that drivers can receive a ticket for reckless driving or speeding if they are reading, eating, grooming, or reaching for objects on the floor of the vehicle. 

How Common Is Distracted Driving in California?

California OTS states that mobile devices are the biggest source of distraction for drivers. In a survey from 2021, nearly three-quarters of Californians cited distracted driving as their biggest source of concern for their safety on the state’s roadways. 

According to a survey cited in Forbes, distracted driving is especially problematic in the San Francisco Bay Area. Compared to Southern California drivers, residents of the Bay Area were five times more likely to answer a text or call on their phone while driving. 

Seeking Compensation After a Distracted Driving Crash

In California, distracted driving can lead to tickets, fees, and driver’s license suspension. However, none of those penalties help victims who have been injured or killed by distracted drivers. And in many cases, the distracted driver’s insurance provider doesn’t respond to claims with enough money to cover the victims’ expenses.

Victims of distracted driving crashes may choose to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. There are two types of compensation available under California law: economic and non-economic.

You can seek economic damages to cover the costs you have incurred from the accident:

  • Medical bills for treatment and medications
  • Repair or replacement costs for your vehicle
  • Loss of income during recovery
  • Reduced earning potential

In a personal injury case, you would provide evidence of your expenses in these areas to support your pursuit of economic damages.

You can also seek non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit. This money is intended to cover the “cost” of intangible consequences of the crash:

  • Emotional distress
  • Pain
  • Loss of companionship/sexual affection

A jury decides the amount of non-economic damages to award in your case. However, the amount you can actually collect depends on the unique circumstances of the accident. Under California’s “pure comparative negligence” law, every person involved in a crash is assigned a certain percentage of fault. You can only collect non-economic damages for the portion of the crash you weren’t responsible for.

For example, maybe you were assigned 20 percent liability for a crash because you changed lanes without signaling and then a distracted driver hit you. If the judge awards $20,000 in non-economic damages, you can only collect 80 percent of that money: $16,000.

Do You Need to Hire an Attorney?

While California does have some laws that affect personal injury lawsuits (e.g. comparative negligence), the state doesn’t require you to hire a lawyer. However, hiring an attorney can be beneficial. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help determine whether the initial insurance settlement is fair and/or what other legal options you have. 

If you decide to initiate a lawsuit, an attorney can help you build a strong case efficiently so you can file within California’s two-year statute of limitations. A lawyer can help you understand how much compensation you can expect in a personal injury or wrongful death case. 

Expert Support for Distracted Driving Victims

Everyone knows the dangers of texting, eating, or engaging in other distracting behaviors while driving. Unfortunately, many California residents choose to do so anyway, endangering everyone else on the road. Many distracted driving accidents end in serious brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or death.

A distracted driver can cause a car crash that leaves you or a loved one with high medical bills and reduced income. The liable party’s insurance provider may try to convince you to accept a low settlement that doesn’t cover your care and recovery. For expert advice with your case, contact the Scott Carr Law Firm’s San Francisco office at 415-799-2229. You’ll get compassionate legal support from a personal injury expert.

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