Most people drive every day, often without giving it much thought. Distracted driving, which is any activity that diverts your attention from driving safely, accounts for approximately 25 percent of motor vehicle fatalities. Sadly, the cause of these fatalities is nearly always preventable.
If you or someone you love has been injured by a distracted driver in Petersburg , you may be entitled to compensation. At Emroch and Kilduff, our dedicated attorneys are here to help you deal with the consequences of an accident caused by distracted driving.
About Distracted Driving
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify three broad types of driver distraction:
- Visual (taking your eyes off the road)
- Manual (taking your hands off the wheel)
- Cognitive (taking your mind off of your responsibility to drive safely)
Distracted driving has become so common you may not even notice when the drivers around you are distracted. Examples of a distracting non-driving activity include:
- Talking on a cell phone or handheld device
- Texting on a handheld device
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio or similar audio device
- Reaching for a dropped phone or another item
- Grooming or putting on makeup
- Changing clothes
- Eating or drinking
- Reading a map or looking at a navigation system
- Dealing with children or pets
- Talking to passengers in your vehicle
- Looking at an external object or person
Distracted Driving Injuries
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016, 3,450 people were killed as a result of motor vehicle incidents involving distracted drivers. Another 391,000 were injured. Some of these injuries cause permanent disability or require long-term care.
Common types of injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes include:
- Broken bones - these may require surgery and physical therapy.
- Soft tissue injuries - Torn tendons, muscles, or ligaments may cause significant long-term pain.
- Burn injuries - Serious burns are not only extremely painful, but they may also require skin grafts and leave permanent scarring.
- Neck and back injuries - These may include anything from sprains to whiplash, herniated discs or many other serious problems.
- Head and brain injuries - Injuries to the head and brain, such as skull fractures, internal bleeding, or other traumatic brain injuries, may have lasting repercussions.
- Spinal injuries - Depending on how and where the spinal cord is damaged, the injured party may experience loss of sensation or movement.
Who Is at Fault?
It is important to identify all the parties who may be at fault when you’re injured in a distracted driving accident. The obvious responsibility lies with the distracted driver, but others may also have contributed to the accident.
In some cases, employers have been held responsible for the distracted driving of an employee. Perhaps the employer failed to adequately train the employee. Or an employer may demand an unreasonable volume of work, putting dangerous pressure on the employee. In 2012, a Texas jury awarded $21 million in damages to a person who was injured by a Coca-Cola driver. The driver had been talking on a cell phone at the time of the accident.
In recent years, lawsuits have emerged asserting that liability rests with those who manufacture or sell smartphones and other devices. The theory is that those parties failed to incorporate safety features into the devices that would block calls or texts while the vehicle was being driven.
What about the person who sends a text or Instagram to someone who they know is currently driving? Is the sender potentially liable? These and other questions of liability are currently arising in the courts.
What Damages Can Victims Recover in Distracted Driving Cases?
If you suffer a motor vehicle injury in Virginia, you may be entitled to sue the driver who caused the accident for “damages.” There are two broad types of damages. “Economic” damages are awarded for a financial loss, such as medical expenses, rehabilitation, physical therapy costs, and lost earnings. “Noneconomic” damages are awarded to pay the injured party for a personal loss, such as pain and suffering, psychological trauma, diminished future earning capacity, or loss of consortium.
In some cases, punitive, or exemplary damages are used when the liable party engaged in willful misconduct or with a reckless disregard for the safety of others.
How Do Responsible Parties Try to Avoid Payment?
If you have been injured in a distracted driving accident, do not accept a settlement from an insurance company without speaking to an attorney first. Insurance companies often offer a quick, lowball settlement to try to take advantage of victims before who are not fully aware of their rights.
Other potentially responsible parties may try to blame emergency circumstances, or even the victim, for the accident. Speak with a lawyer before responding to any of these claims.
Results in Distracted Driving Cases
Our attorneys are experienced at investigating and obtaining the necessary evidence. Our litigation and negotiation skills help our clients recover the compensation they deserve. Distracted driving cases often result in large jury awards or settlements. The amount of recovery may differ, however, based on the unique facts and circumstances of each case.
Can You Afford to Hire an Attorney?
You can’t afford not to. After you have been injured, you may be unable to work and bills may pile up rapidly. Or you may not fully understand how seriously you have been injured until several days or weeks after the accident. Statements you make to insurance adjusters or professionals working on behalf of other drivers may affect the damages you collect later.
Our attorneys are available around the clock, 365 days a year. We offer a free consultation to help you assess your situation and protect your rights. In appropriate cases, we may agree to handle cases for our clients on a contingency fee basis in which we recover our fees only out of a settlement or judgment in our clients’ favor.
If you or a loved one suffered an injury or a fatality resulting from a Virginia motor vehicle crash involving a distracted driver, speak with a Petersburg attorney experienced in distracted driver cases today. Contact us online or call (804) 358-1568 to find out how we may be able to help you secure the compensation you deserve.