In general, texting while driving describes an act that is typically classified as a form of distracted driving under the traffic laws in many states. As you may already be aware, texting while driving can be dangerous since it forces the driver to avert their eyes from the road and to concentrate on their phone screen instead.
Over the last decade or so, the number of distracted driving incidents that were caused by the act of texting while driving has climbed to approximately 400,000 injuries per year. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting while driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. In both situations, the driver’s attention span is cut short, their reflexes may be dulled, and they are blatantly ignoring the rules of the road.
Some common examples of situations that involve texting and driving accidents include the following:
- A driver may accidentally collide with the car in front of them if they are paying attention to their phone, as opposed to the traffic beyond their windshield. This kind of texting and driving accident is known as a rear-end collision. This can set off a chain reaction that causes other vehicles to crash into the ones in front of them like dominoes. Rear-end collisions are also infamous for causing whiplash to drivers as well as their passengers when the initial impact hits them from behind.
- In contrast, texting while driving can also lead to a head-on collision between two vehicles. These types of driving accidents can happen when a driver is texting and unknowingly drifts into another lane or oncoming traffic.
- In addition, texting while driving can cause a driver to ignore or miss important traffic signals. For example, a driver who is texting and driving may roll through a stop sign or fail to stop at a red light, which may result in them crashing into other vehicles that have the right of way.
- Another type of accident that frequently arises from a texting and driving incident is when a driver fails to register their victim before it is too late. For instance, if the driver was looking down at their phone and a person or kid on a bike decides to cross the street at that moment, then the situation could end poorly for everyone involved unless the driver is able to look up in time and apply the brakes.
One last thing to note about texting and driving accidents is that they can have long-lasting effects on both the driver and the injured party. Therefore, you may want to consider contacting a local personal injury lawyer for further legal advice on the matter. Alternatively, a driver who has been involved in a texting and driving accident, should hire a local criminal defense attorney immediately if they have been or are about to be charged with a crime.
Legal Consequences for Car Accidents Caused by Texting
The legal consequences for car accidents caused by texting will typically vary from state to state and/or on the circumstances surrounding a particular case. For instance, a plaintiff who sues for injuries they sustained in a car accident caused by texting may be able to recover economic damages and noneconomic damages. If a plaintiff’s injuries are severe enough, a court may also issue a punitive damages award. However, these tend to be rare and are usually capped by state law.
Some examples of the types of expenses that an opposing party may need to pay for if they lose the case can include:
- The cost to repair any property damage done to a vehicle;
- The cost to replace car parts that are specially designed for a particular car model;
- The cost to reimburse the plaintiff for hospital bills and other medical expenses, such as prescriptions, alternative treatments, medical devices, or in-home care aids; and
- Various other civil remedies like civil fines, administrative court costs, and the attorneys’ fees of the prevailing party.
In addition, a texting and driving accident can potentially lead to criminal charges as well. If a defendant gets convicted on such charges, then they may need to pay criminal fines, serve some amount of jail time, and/or complete a set number of hours of community service. These penalties can quickly escalate if a driver was speeding or was operating a motor vehicle in an impaired state (e.g., drunk on alcohol or high on legal or illegal substances).
A driver can also receive increased penalties if they are a repeat offender or if the accident caused fatalities. For example, in Alaska, a first-time offender of simultaneously texting and driving will likely be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Being charged with a Class A misdemeanor offense in Alaska is punishable for up to one year in jail time and/or fines for as much as $10,000.
On the other hand, if the driver is a habitual offender or if they cause death to another individual in the accident, then they will be charged with a felony offense in Alaska. If convicted of a felony offense, the driver may be sentenced to twenty years in a state prison facility and/or may have to pay criminal fines in excess of $250,000.
One other legal consequence that a driver could possibly receive as a punishment is having their driver’s license temporarily suspended for some amount of time. Alternatively, a driver can also have their driver’s license permanently revoked for a lifetime if they have other infractions on their driving record.
Once again, the legal penalties that a driver can receive for this type of incident will largely depend on state laws and the severity of damages caused by the accident. It is important for individuals to keep this in mind when attempting to resolve their situation. Otherwise, they could wind up doing things like paying more than they need to for a settlement or accepting a longer sentence than necessary.
Accordingly, individuals who are facing consequences for the same or similar actions should hire local counsel to represent them in both civil and criminal court (if applicable).
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Texting and Driving Accidents?
In general, accidents caused by drivers who are texting and operating a motor vehicle at the same time can face serious legal consequences. The reason for this is because texting and driving accidents may be considered a form of distracted driving, which can lead to both civil and criminal penalties. It should be noted that the outcome of a distracted driving case, such as a texting and driving accident, can vary widely based on state laws and the facts of a case.
Thus, if you have been involved in a texting and driving incident, then it may be in your best interest to hire a local personal injury lawyer for further assistance. Alternatively, if you are involved in a texting and driving incident that results in criminal charges, then you should strongly consider hiring a local traffic violation attorney to represent you during your criminal court proceedings.
Your attorney will be able to provide advice on the best way to proceed with your case and can explain how the distracted driving laws in your state may affect the outcome of a related lawsuit or criminal trial. Your lawyer can also assist you in drafting and filing any legal documents that are necessary to resolving your legal situation.
In addition, your lawyer will be able to help you file a lawsuit or counterclaim against any parties whom you believe are at fault for causing the texting and driving accident. Finally, if you have any questions or concerns about your case, your lawyer will be able to answer them and can ensure that you have a thorough understanding of any personal decisions you might have to make in relation to your case.