Texas Car Accident Law: Distracted Driving and Cell Phones
In this article, our Texas car accident attorneys are going to discuss the legal ramifications of distracted drivers (with specific focus on phones and mobile devices). The approach that we're going to take is to discuss this topic from the perspective of distracted driving as a theory of negligence. You see, in any car accident where someone is injured, it's not enough to say that the other party hit you, you have to phrase the defendant's misconduct in the form of a cognizable negligence argument. This is how that works.
Questions Answered in this Section:
- Are there laws against distracted driving?
- How can I prove that the other driver was distracted?
- What happens if you were also on the phone at the time of the accident?
Distracted driving accidents are on the rise.
Car accidents are nothing new. People have been running into each other since cars first started driving down dirt roads. Nonetheless, in our 25 years of practicing law, we've never seen this many distracted drivers. It's no longer just the radio, eating, and gazing at scenery---it's phones. Obviously, cell phones aren't the only thing that can distract a driver, but we're focusing on them in particular because they're the #1 cause of distracted driving accidents in the modern era.
What Texas law says about distracted driving.
Generally speaking, Texas has few codified laws on the books with respect to cell phone usage. While there is a law that bans cell phone usage statewide while in active schools zones (these laws used to only exist on a city-by-city basis), and while there are restrictions on cell phone usage for young drivers with learners permits, by and large Texas lawmakers have not implemented outright bans on driving while texting or talking on a mobile device. Such a law passed the house and senate in 2013, but was vetoed by then-governor Rick Perry.
But that's not the whole story. You see, the legislature's primary concern when passing these kinds of laws is to create ordinances that, when violated, comprise a criminal infraction; something one can be ticketed or arrested for. But outside the scope of the legislature in Austin, there exists and entire body of Texas common law (court-created legal concepts) which clearly state that distracted driving is negligence, and therefore punishable through financial liability.
In other words, if a driver causes an accident that injures someone due to any form of distracted driving, cell phone use included, the injured party has the right to sue the distracted driver for financial compensation. So, the takeaway here is that there is far more to Texas law than the laws passed in Austin, and, taken as a whole, Texas law is very much so opposed to distracted driving, at least in the civil realm of the law, and insofar as distracted driving causes an innocent person to be injured or killed.
Cell phone use and its hazards.
While mobile phones provide us many conveniences, they can create enormous hazards for drivers. These are just three:
- Cognitive: We tend to think that driving is an easy thing simply because we do it so often. But in reality, your brain is taking in thousands of little data points the entire time and reacting accordingly. If you're reading a text, a news article, or even just having a phone conversation, your brain can't absorb and respond to dangers on the road.
- Manual: Most drivers don't use the "10 and 2" method of steering. But when a driver's hands are preoccupied with typing a text or number on a phone, they're obviously not holding the wheel. This may seem trivial until you realize that drivers often only have half a second to steer clear of trouble.
- Visual: Similar to the above, anything that takes a driver's eyes off the road prevents them from taking in the potential problems and hazards slows (or even destroys) their reaction time.
Now, the special danger with phones is that they combine all three of the above. This is why texting and driving is often believed by specialists to be more dangerous than even drunk driving.
How can you prove the other driver was distracted?
Cell phones are the main way that distracted driving happens. That wasn't always the case, and to sue someone for distracted driving back when our firm first opened, you would need to have an eyewitness say that they had seen the driver playing with their radio, etc. But, in the modern era, technology has given us a way to prove when someone was using their phone. Lawyers can use a subpoena or the discovery process to have a driver's cell phone data checked. If indeed their phone was in use, a record of it will exist.
In addition to this, eyewitnesses can also be of great assistance. Their testimony is considered evidence, and in the end, evidence is what you'll need to win your case. You can't just speculate.
How juries view distracted drivers.
Those having to defend themselves in a distracted driving car accident will find little solace with the jury assigned to hear their case. Traditionally, juries have little sympathy for those who are so inconsiderate of others on the road, so proving that the other driver was on their phone at the time will greatly help your case.
Distractions other than driving.
As mentioned before, there are several other things that can distract a driver on the road. These include eating while driving, fixing hair or make-up, using headphones, reading a book (it happens), as well as generally not paying attention to the road. These are all things that need to be watched out for, and just like using a cell phone, these are all things that will have to be proved.
If you were also on the phone.
We'd be remiss if we didn't provide a brief answer to this important question: what if I were on the phone at the time, too? The bottom line is that you need an attorney who can show that your phone use had NOTHING to do with the accident. We've never represented a perfect person, and we know you're not one, either. We'll do everything we can to get you every dollar you deserve.
If you have been injured in a car accident by a driver who was negligently using their cell phone while driving, you may be entitled to serious compensation. Our attorneys at Grossman Law Offices are very experienced in handling personal injury car accident claims, and have been helping people like you since 1990. To learn more about your individual claim, call Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000.
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