Distracted driving has become one of the top causes of car accidents, both in the state of Florida and throughout the United States. This should come as no surprise given the ever-increasing number of distractions that exist in cars today. From GPS devices to cell phones that allow you to send and receive texts and emails, there is a lot to do in the car other than focusing on the road. Sadly, when you look away and pay attention to anything other than driving, it significantly increases the risk of becoming involved in a crash.
At David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A., you will find a Fort Lauderdale distracted driving car accident lawyer who is committed to fighting for justice on behalf of each client he accepts the responsibility of representing. If a driver fails to be reasonably safe and competent because he is distracted, he can be sued for damages when he causes a crash. Attorney David I. Fuchs has more than 30 years of experience representing clients in car wreck cases and can help if you or a loved one has been involved in a distracted driving crash.
What is Distracted Driving in Fort Lauderdale?
“Distracted driving” can involve any type of interruption that impedes the driver’s ability to dedicate 100% of his or her attention to the road. Common driver distractions include eating and drinking, reading, talking to passengers, looking at maps or a GPS, fiddling with the radio, and – the deadliest distraction of them all – using a handheld cell phone.
Cell phones are especially dangerous because they take a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off of driving. It is against the law to text and drive in Florida, but hundreds of drivers still do so every day.
The term “distracted driving” may sound self-explanatory, but the real definition is more nuanced than you may expect. There are three types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive.
These refer to anything that causes you to divert your eyes away from the road ahead. This could include turning to look at a roadside accident, looking at your navigation system or stereo, or using a smartphone.
These include anything that causes you to move your hands away from the steering wheel (or shifter for manual transmission vehicles). This may include reaching for something inside the car or trying to type out a text message on a cell phone.
These describe anything that causes a driver’s mind to wander away from the task at hand. This could include mulling over plans once you reach your destination, fretting about a stressful day at work, or any other stressors that divert your attention away from driving.
The reason that texting while driving is so dangerous is that it encompasses all three of these types of distraction: you must use your hands to operate the phone so at least one hand leaves its appropriate position, you must divert your eyes to the screen to read messages and type responses, and your attention turns to the text conversation and away from the road.
It is every driver’s legal duty to pay attention to the road when driving. Accepting the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle means agreeing to take reasonable care in preventing injuries to others. If a driver only pays partial attention to the task of driving while his or her thoughts, eyes, or hands are elsewhere, he or she is guilty of negligence. If this negligence results in a collision that causes serious property damage, injuries, or death, victims may have the right to file a claim against the at-fault driver. A skilled lawyer in Fort Lauderdale can help with holding a distracted driver accountable for a crash.
Smoking is one of the top five driving distractions. Smoking while driving is not only dangerous to one’s body, but it is distracting in ways that can cause fatal accidents. Accidents caused by smoking result from visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. Visual distractions are caused by taking your eyes off the road to light the cigarette. Manual distractions occur when taking your hands off the steering wheel to light the cigarette or to dispense of the ash in a tray or out the window. Lastly, cognitive distractions occur because you unnecessarily use brain function to light the cigarette versus focusing the attention to the task at hand, which is operating the automobile. Studies have shown that smoking while driving is even more distracting than using a cell phone. While driving, cigarette smokers have a 12-second distraction rate, while cell phone users have a 10-second distraction rate.
Using a Cell Phone
This is probably everyone’s first guess when thinking about what could have caused an auto accident. How often does someone use a cell phone while they drive? Probably almost every time they get into a car. This unnecessary distraction leads the driver to not pay attention and can result in a car accident. Texting or updating social media causes unnecessary distractions as well. Constantly looking down at a phone to text or update a Facebook status is just a disaster waiting to happen. If you need to send an emergency text message, use a voice-activated message system or just pull over to safety if you need to use your phone. While everyone in the world has a cell phone these days, which are essential especially in emergencies, they should avoid using them while operating a vehicle to keep everyone on the road safe..
Eating and Drinking While Driving
Another one of the top distractions. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, stopping at a fast food restaurant and grabbing food to go and just eating in the car is very easy. It’s more convenient than being late for work or actually taking the time to have a sit-down meal. According to the most recent Facebook survey, 51% of people admitted to eating breakfast in the car.
Talking/Interacting with Passengers
Everyone at some point has carpooled or driven with their friends, but more people in a car can lead to an increased risk of a crash. With multiple people in the car, the temptation to talk to friends while driving increases and can cause the driver to not pay 100% attention to the road. 6% of people admitted to getting into an accident while being distracted by the passengers in their car. While that can seem like a low percentage, it’s actually even riskier because more lives would be involved in the event of an accident.
Applying Makeup in the Car
Too often someone is putting makeup on in the car while driving. Even though it is more often at a red light, it is still an unnecessary distraction. 45% of women admitted to putting makeup on in the car while at a stop light. The most popular makeup product applied while in the car is lip-gloss, and 35% admitted to putting lip-gloss on while they are driving. The most responsible thing a person can do is to not be distracted while driving, and you can easily avoid distractions such as these.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
The National Safety Council reported that cell phone use leads to 1.6 million car accidents every year. As many as 390,000 serious injuries are caused by texting and driving accidents. In fact, one out of every four accidents in the U.S. are caused by texting and driving.
It is clear that the number of people texting is on the rise, but texting is just one of many dangers identified by Distraction.gov as a risk to drivers. Distracted driving lawyers warn that other distracted driving behaviors that can lead to a crash include:
- Talking on a cell phone
- Using a smartphone (emailing, etc.)
- Having a conversation with passengers
- Looking at a map or reading
- Using a GPS or in-vehicle navigation system
- Watching videos
- Adjusting in-vehicle controls such as radios or CD players
All of these actions take the focus away from where it should be. Texting, however, tends to require the most cognitive attention and is typically viewed as the most serious distracted driving danger.
Hit By a Distracted Driver? Your Rights After a Distracted Driving Accident
After a collision with a driver, you suspect of distracted driving, dial 911. You must legally report an accident in Florida if it caused injuries, death, or property damage over $500; however, you may call 911 and report any collision if you wish to have an official record of the incident.
Police will help you gather information about the crash, such as the distracted driver’s name and insurance information. It will also protect you from the driver giving you false information, as well as help you prove your case to an insurance company.
Take photographs at the scene of the crash if you can, snapping shots of anything that may incriminate the other driver. For example, taking pictures of food wrappers in the driver’s seat could later serve as evidence of the driver’s distraction. Seek immediate medical attention for any injuries and follow the doctor’s orders completely. Then, before you call your insurance company to report your crash, call our distracted driving attorneys in Fort Lauderdale.
Liability for Distracted Driving Crashes
It can be complicated to take legal action after a distracted driving crash. However, a motorist can be considered liable under Florida law and can be made to pay for a distracted driving accident.
To take legal action against a distracted driver, you must prove that the other driver was unreasonably careless in his behavior (i.e. that any reasonable driver would have been paying more attention). You also must show that the distracted driver’s negligence was the direct cause of the accident. Finally, you need to illustrate that your damages are severe enough for you to make a claim under Florida’s no-fault rules and you need to demonstrate the extent of your damages, including the likelihood of future medical complications and/or disability. An experienced distracted driving lawyer like David Fuchs can help you determine whether you have a suitably distracted driving claim.
Compensation for Distracted Driving Wrecks
Provided you can prove your case, there are a number of different types of damages available to you under Florida law. A settlement or a jury verdict should both include compensation for:
- Treatment costs/medical expenses and bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress
- Punitive damages (under limited circumstances)
Maximizing your compensation is important so you have the money you need to achieve the best possible quality of life after a serious accident impacts your health.
Call a Fort Lauderdale Distracted Driving Car Accident Lawyer Today
A conversation with one of our attorneys can help you understand your rights after a crash, as well as if a personal injury claim would garner greater compensation for your damages than an insurance claim.
Lawyer David I. Fuchs can help you if you’ve been the victim of a distracted driving crash. As a Fort Lauderdale distracted driving car accident lawyer, attorney Fuchs can protect your rights and help you collect the compensation you deserve. Reach out to us today to get started on your case process.