More often than not, drivers who break the law and cause a car accident are held liable for their actions. Increasingly, states are enacting strict laws on the use of cell phones while driving. If a motorist is using his or cell phone while driving and happens to cause an accident, it is likely he or she will be held responsible.
Not only can a driver be held responsible in a criminal court of law, but the victim of the car accident may also take the liable driver to civil court for damages as a result of the accident. Liability for a car accident due to cell phone usage will vary between states.
Currently, 16 states ban handheld cell phone usage, 47 states ban text-messaging, and 3 states do not have a no-texting ban. These numbers will likely change, and if you have any questions regarding the laws in your state, contact a personal injury or criminal defense attorney.
Why is there Increased Liability for Driving and Using Your Cell Phone?
When a driver causes an accident, it is often a result of careless driving. Negligence is a legal theory that means an individual behaved in a careless or thoughtless manner, and this behavior resulted in injury or harm to another person. It can be argued that the use of a cell phone while driving is negligent behavior, that could cause harm to others.
The liability of a driver who was not using a cell phone, and caused an accident, may be less than that of a driver who caused an accident while using their phone. The elevated level of liability can be attributed to negligence. In a civil lawsuit, it is up to the plaintiff to prove that the defendant acted negligently. Cell phone records may be presented in court, and if found liable, the negligent driver may face severe monetary penalties. In criminal court, the defendant could face steep fines and other serious penalties.
The type of criminal penalties depends on the laws of your state/area. It will also depend on what happened while you were using your cell phone. If you were simply caught using your cell phone while driving, including texting, then you will most likely face a traffic violation. But if you were using your phone and hit another car or, even worse, hit pedestrian, then you can face serious charges.
Either way, be sure to know your local laws on cell phone use and driving, and be prepared to face the consequences of breaking the law.
Can Employers be Held Responsible for Employee’s Cell Phone Use While Driving?
Not only can a negligent driver be held responsible for cell phone usage while driving, but so can their employer. Employees who cause an accident while on a work-related phone call, place their employer in jeopardy of a lawsuit. Employers are also liable for car accidents that are caused by employees who were in the commission of reading or sending work-related texts and emails.
It is not uncommon for plaintiffs to name the employer as a defendant in a civil lawsuit, as it is likely a more prosperous target for an award of damages. Increasingly, employers have prohibited employees from using their phones and other devices while driving. The implications of having an employee involved in a car accident who disobeyed a no-cell phone policy are severe, and have been grounds for termination.
Depending on your employment contract, it’s also possible that the violating employee can be held financially responsible for the damage to the employer’s property (like the work vehicle).
Parents are Not Always Held Responsible for Their Children Using Cell Phones While Driving
Parents should strongly discourage their children from using their cell phones while driving. Parental liability for accidents that their children cause is a serious issue, and one that is evolving. For instance, in California, parents must sign a consent form that allows their child under the age of 18 to drive. It also holds the parents responsible for any accidents that their children cause.
If the child was using a cell phone at the time of the accident, it could be a problem for his or her parents. Each state will have their unique set of laws, and they will make it very clear as to how much liability parents can face depending on the circumstances of the accident. In some cases, if the child was sent on an errand for the parent/household (like getting groceries for the family), then it is likely that the parent can be held responsible.
Of course, the outcome always depends on the situation and the laws in your area. If you have questions regarding an accident and your child, contact an attorney in your area to discuss liability issues in your state.
What Kind of Consequences Can You Face from Your Insurance Company?
Distracted driving is a big issue with insurance companies. Anyone who has caused an accident while using their cell phone, or who has been ticketed for texting or talking while driving could see an increase in their insurance premiums. If you have been found at-fault for a car accident, you may have excessive points on your driver’s license, and your insurance will reflect your driving behavior.
Recently, insurance companies evaluated the risk of distracted driving, and an average increase of 16 percent in the insurance policies of those ticketed have been noted. Surprisingly, the increase is a lot less than other violations, but for those looking to minimize the cost of insurance, distracted driving is something that should be avoided.
Should I Consult an Attorney If I was in a Car Accident Due to Cell Phone Use?
If you were injured in a car accident that was caused by cell phone use, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. If you were the driver and are accused of using your phone while the accident occurred, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will assist you in building your case, and will also represent your best interests in court.