After a serious car accident, it’s only natural to feel anxious, depressed, and even frustrated. This is especially true if the at-fault driver was engaging in blatantly reckless and irresponsible behavior such as texting, putting on makeup, or eating behind the wheel.
If you were hurt in a collision with a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to prove that a driver was distracted. And even if you have sufficient evidence of liability, the insurance company might dispute the severity of your damages.
The smartest step you can take after such an accident is to consult an attorney right away. A seasoned personal injury lawyer can handle correspondence with the insurance adjuster, calculate your damages, and apply legal pressure where necessary to gather evidence.
Read on to learn the answers to four FAQs about distracted driving accident claims:
1. How Can Your Attorney Prove the Other Driver Was Distracted?
The answer to this question depends on the facts surrounding your case: where the accident occurred, the type of distraction involved, whether the police attended the scene, etc. Generally speaking, your attorney might use the following evidence to prove the other driver was distracted:
- Footage from nearby surveillance cameras and dash cams;
- The police report; and
- Statements from eyewitnesses.
There are other types of evidence that might be useful depending on the circumstances of the wreck. For example, if the driver who caused the crash was texting, your attorney can file a subpoena to obtain his or her cell phone records. Your lawyer can find out if the defendant’s vehicle had an electronic data recorder (EDR), or “black box,” installed. An EDR tracks data like average speed, brake usage, and acceleration. If it shows that the at-fault driver did not apply the brakes before hitting you, this might indicate that he or she was distracted.
Obtaining this evidence can be challenging without applying legal pressure. An experienced personal injury lawyer can review the facts of your case, determine the types of evidence to pursue, and take the necessary steps to acquire it.
2. Can Your Attorney Pursue Punitive Damages After a Distracted Driving Accident?
In the state of California, a personal injury plaintiff may be awarded exemplary damages, also called “punitive damages,” if the defendant acted with “oppression or malice,” which means the defendant’s conduct was “despicable” and subjected the victim to unjust and cruel hardship in conscious disregard of the victim’s rights.
You don’t necessarily have to prove an intent to harm to recover punitive damages, but you must demonstrate that the defendant showed a “conscious disregard” for your rights. This requires you to prove that the defendant was aware that his or her conduct was likely to have dangerous consequences, yet he or she deliberately and willfully failed to avoid those consequences.
If you were hurt by a driver who was texting behind the wheel, you may be able to recover punitive damages because, given the many public awareness campaigns, all drivers should know the dangers posed by texting. Of course, pursuing a punitive award presents several challenges, so if you think punitive damages may be warranted, you should discuss your case with a trial attorney.
If your loved one died after an accident with a distracted driver, you may be able to pursue punitive damages by bringing a survival action.
3. How Can I Avoid Distracted Driving Accidents?
The easiest way to avoid distracted driving accidents is to make a commitment not to engage in behaviors that would deter your focus from the road. If you find yourself driving while distracted often, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Stay Ahead of Schedule: To squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep, many people make a habit out of eating breakfast and putting on makeup during their morning commute to work. This can be especially tempting if you spend a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic. But all it takes is a moment’s inattention to cause a serious accident. Try brainstorming ways to stay ahead of schedule so you can keep your focus on the road, such as preparing breakfast before you go to bed or reducing screen-time so you can fall asleep earlier.
- Limit the Number of Passengers You Transport: What comes to mind when you think of driver distractions? Texting or talking on a cell phone? Eating and drinking behind the wheel? According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, chatting with passengers can be even more dangerous than those behaviors. One study showed that interacting with passengers contributes to about half of all distraction-related accidents.
- Download a Distracted Driving App: There are several apps available that are designed to prevent distracted driving. Most of these apps disable certain cell phone features when they sense the vehicle is in motion. Some even send automated messages to people who call or text so they know you are driving. A few popular options include DriveMode, LifeSaver, and SafeDrive.
4. What Damages Might Be Recoverable After a Distracted Driving Accident?
As previously mentioned, exemplary damages may be awarded in cases wherein the defendant exhibited a conscious disregard for the rights of the victim. These damages are rarely awarded, but any successful personal injury or wrongful death claim will result in compensatory damages.
Compensatory damages can be further divided into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are losses that can be objectively verified using receipts, invoices, and other documentation. If you suffered a permanent disability or if there is a dispute regarding the extent of your damages, your attorney might also rely on the testimony of medical, vocational, and financial experts to prove your economic losses, which might include:
- Healthcare expenses;
- Lost income and lost earning capacity;
- Property damage; and
- Home care and other costs directly or indirectly related to the accident.
The value of non-economic damages cannot be proven using receipts or tangible documentation. Rather, your attorney will consider the type of injury you suffered, its severity and permanence, how it has affected you and your loved ones, and other factors to arrive at a reasonable figure.
Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Loss of consortium;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of enjoyment in life; and
- Pain and suffering.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Long Beach Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you still have questions about the claims process or if you need help making informed decisions regarding your case, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. Attorney Michael Waks can evaluate your case for free, perform a thorough investigation, and help you pursue the highest possible settlement.
Michael has a track record of success in accident claims involving distracted drivers. With more than 30 years in legal practice, Michael has the experience, knowledge, and resources to assist clients in even the most complex, high-stakes cases. To schedule a free consultation, call (562) 206-1939 or use our Contact Form to reach us online.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF
A distracted driving accident can happen at any time. If you are involved in a collision, it’s important that you take the necessary steps at the scene to protect your legal rights. Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF outlines the information you need to gather in the immediate aftermath of a crash. Download it HERE and keep it in your glovebox so you’re always prepared.
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