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Laws and Liability for Texting and Driving Accidents

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Laws and Liability for Texting and Driving Accidents

Texting and driving is by far one of the most dangerous and unnecessary actions people can take while on the road. Illinois law prohibits the use of any handheld device for communications, texting, or talking while operating a motor vehicle.

Anyone over the age of 19 can use hands-free devices to talk or a Bluetooth enabled device.

However, these laws do not stop motorists from using their phones or engaging in other types of distractions behind the wheel. Sadly, texting and driving is still prevalent and a leading type of distraction causing catastrophic accidents across the state.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 3,477 distracted driving fatalities in 2015 and 391,000 distracted driving injuries. Instead of these numbers going down as they should with harsher penalties, they are increasing each year.

The Serious Threat of Text Messaging

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that more than 600,000 drivers currently use their phones while they are driving. Texting and driving was one of the biggest offenses reported by motorists, and that is because today’s form of communication has changed.

More people are relying on their phones to communicate. However, in a highly digitized society, more people are using texting and email to communicate rather than calling. Also, more people are finding themselves addicted to their phone. They need to check it throughout the day, read text messages the moment they are received, and respond – regardless of whether or not they are driving.

That is why multiple campaigns were started to bring awareness to the issue of texting and driving. However, the awareness isn’t enough.

Texting and Driving is Illegal Almost Anywhere

Texting and driving is against the law in Illinois and many other states. In fact, it is a criminal offense to use the phone, text, and drive.

Texting Laws for Illinois

Illinois prohibits texting and driving for licensed drivers in the state. The anti-texting law for the state, which falls under 615 ILCS 5/12-610.02, states that a driver cannot operate a vehicle on the road while using a communication device to send, compose, or read any type of electronic message. This also extends to email, social media, and text messaging.

There are exceptions to the rule. These exceptions include:

  • Emergency Reporting – If you are in an emergency and you need to report that emergency, then you can text or call on your phone while operating a vehicle.
  • Hands-Free – You can activate Bluetooth and hands-free mode to communicate on your phone in Illinois.
  • Parked – When your vehicle is parked on the shoulder of the road, you can use your phone to text.
  • Stopped in Traffic – When you are stopped in normal traffic, and your vehicle is in park or neutral, then you can text. However, waiting at a red light is not an exception to this rule.

Bluetooth and hands-free does not apply to any driver that is 19 years or younger. Instead, you must be 19 years or older to use a hands-free option while driving.

Examining the Legal Liability of Texting and Driving

A driver that is texting and driving is legally liable for any damages he or she causes in an accident. All states, including Illinois, impose driver liability – which means that drivers have a legal obligation to look out for the safety of other people on the road.

Therefore, all drivers owe a “duty of care” which means that they have an obligation to look out for the safety of others while on the road. If a driver intentionally engages in distracted driving, that driver has officially violated their duty of care to others. A breach of duty in this case would constitute negligence. If that driver is negligent, he or she is then financially liable for the damages.

What Damages Apply to a Texting and Driving Case?

The driver’s liability is established by the act. However, your attorney still must determine the damages. The courts will look at recoverable damages first, because these are what you are entitled to due to your injuries. Your recoverable damages can include, but are not limited to:

  • Property Damage –  Any property damage that is a result of the accident, such as vehicle repairs, are recoverable. You can also receive fair market value for your vehicle if it has been declared to be “totaled” by the insurance company.
  • Medical Expenses – The medical expenses from an automobile accident can be extensive. Costs under this category include emergency room bills, ambulance transportation, doctors’ bills, hospital admission, treatments, and physical therapy.
  • All Out of Pocket Expenses – Out-of-pocket expenses that stem from your accident, such as rental car costs, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, medical equipment, crutches, and in-home nursing care are also included.
  • Pain and Suffering Costs – All mental anguish, emotional distress, physical pain, loss of marital intimacy, and other losses that cannot be calculated based on receipts or statements.

Proving Your Case

While you may know that the other driver was negligent, that is not enough. Your attorney must prove negligence by submitting evidence that establishes that the other driver was responsible for the accident.

In a court of law, this is referred to as “proximate cause,” and means that the victim must show the court that the other driver’s negligence led to the accident and injuries. You must have proof he was texting, or at least be able to convince the court that the driver was texting while driving.

Forms of Proof to Establish Your Case

While you might not have all these types of evidence at your disposal, the more you have, the better the chances are for your case.

  • State Laws – State laws can work in your favor, especially because the state forbids texting and driving. Therefore, if the driver is texting and driving, they could be in violation per se just for doing the act. Also, if the officers at the scene cite the driver for texting and driving, that will help your case.
  • Police Reports – Police reports are one of the most powerful tools you have in a civil claim. They detail the parties present at the scene, give your attorney the names of potential witnesses to contact, and record pertinent details that you might have forgotten.
  • Photos and Videos – Photographs and videos are some of the most effective evidence you can present. While you typically cannot get a photograph of the driver using his cellphone to text, you can take photographs of the scene showing impact, skid marks, stop and traffic signs to help paint a picture for the jury.
  • Witness Statements – Any witnesses that are there are the scene can help fill in the blanks from the police report. Witness statements in these types of accidents are crucial, because often the jury will put more weight on a witness statement than a police report.
  • Cellphone Records – Luckily, your attorney can subpoena the cellphone records of the defendant to attempt to prove that he or she was texting at the time of the accident. The court can also order the cellular company to produce documents in the event that the defendant refuses to provide them of their own volition.
  • Medical Records – Medical records do not prove fault, but these bills and treatment records will link the incident with your injuries and damages that you are requesting in the claim.

Should You Hire an Attorney?

You may wonder if you need an attorney to prove your case or even file a claim. While you might succeed in receiving a settlement, most likely the settlement you receive from the insurance company will be grossly inadequate to cover your expenses.

Instead, you need to speak with an attorney to at least explore your options. For your injury case, talk to an attorney from Malman Law. Schedule your consultation now by calling 888-305-5043, or request your appointment online.

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