Distracted driving is driving while paying attention to something other than driving. Some activities that commonly distract people from the road include texting while driving, trying to find driving directions, eating, getting into a heated argument with a passenger, putting on makeup, or trying to find a station on the radio. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in 2008 distracted driving caused 20% of all motor vehicle accidents.
A distracted driver's inattention to the road may be negligent. The legal theory of negligence can be shown if the plaintiff is able to prove the duty of the defendant, a breach of the duty, actual and proximate causation, and actual damages. In general, driving requires a driver's full attention. Drivers need to be able to respond to unpredictable events, such as an animal running onto the road or a car suddenly braking. They also need to respond to traffic signals. Paying attention to activities other than driving is likely to be a breach of the duty to use reasonable care while driving.
Some states follow the doctrine of negligence per se. Generally, this doctrine permits an inference of negligence by the defendant if a plaintiff can show that the defendant violated a safety statute, the violation caused an accident, and the plaintiff belonged to the class of people that was intended to be protected by the safety statute.
For example, if someone is focused on choosing a CD and runs a red light, causing a side impact collision with another driver, there may be a finding of negligence per se. In such a case, the defendant violated a traffic safety law, it caused an accident, and the other driver is someone whom the traffic safety law was designed to protect. The doctrine of negligence per se can make it easier to hold a negligent individual responsible for a car crash. In states that do not recognize negligence per se, evidence that the defendant ran a red light while trying to select a CD will be very persuasive in showing a breach of duty.
What To Do After An Accident
While you are at the scene, you should take photographs not only of the damages to your car, but also skid marks or any debris in the road. You should report the matter to your insurance provider. If you believe the other driver was at fault and you were injured, you should also contact and consult a personal injury attorney.
Most people want to apologize when they know they should have been paying attention. However, if you are in an accident that you believe was caused by your own distracted driving, you should not admit fault or offer explanations to the other driver. Any admissions of fault you make after an accident can be used against you either by the other driver's insurer or in a courtroom.
In many cases, more than one driver was at fault, and more than one driver was distracted. In particularly complex cases, it may be necessary for the parties to retain an accident reconstruction specialist or forensic engineer to determine the actual and proximate causes of the accident.