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What to do If you're Hit by a Distracted Driver

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We've all seen them: applying makeup, eating, or texting. Distracted drivers are everywhere. These activities might seem innocent, but distracted driving causes thousands of serious injuries and or deaths every year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 3,450 people were killed in a distracted driving car accident in 2016. Distracted driving is especially common among younger, inexperienced drivers. The AAA Foundation estimates that distractions cause more than 58% of teen car crashes.

What is Distracted Driving?

Experts have identified three types of distracted driving: manual, visual and cognitive.

  • Manual distractions are caused by using your hands for anything other than steering the car. This includes adjusting the radio, running through a playlist on your phone or looking for your sunglasses.
  • Visual distractions take your eyes off the road. Common types of visual distractions include texting, reading billboards or looking at off-road activity or scenery.
  • Cognitive distractions take your mind off driving, including: talking on the phone, lack of sleep, or consuming alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription medications against medical advice.

Use of Cell Phones & Distracted Driving

Cell phone use involves all three types of distracted driving. Many drivers don’t realize the dangers of cell phone use. According to the NHTSA, 14% of 2015 distracted driving fatalities involved cell phone use. The University of Utah study found that talking on the phone while driving is as dangerous as driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08%. (This is the legal limit for intoxication in Wisconsin, and many other states.)

Texting while driving increases the risk of a crash, or near-crash, by 23 times. Typically, it takes five seconds to send a text. At 55 mph, this is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed!

Distracted Driving is Illegal

Wisconsin law prohibits any form of distracted driving and has specific penalties for driving while texting or sending emails.

Preventing Distracted Driving

Passengers and parents can play an important role in preventing distracted driving. Passengers should speak up if a driver is engaged in dangerous, distracted behavior.

Parents can monitor use of their child’s cell phone to ensure it is not being used while driving. Parents should also model correct driving behavior so children learn it from a young age.

How Can Distracted Driving Impact your Accident Claim

Discovering that the other driver was involved in some distracted driving conduct can help prove an auto accident was not your fault. Law enforcement is, initially, responsible for investigating an injury crash to determine if the at-fault driver was distracted. This includes searching the car for evidence of distraction or pulling cell phone records.

Whenever possible, the victim (or passenger) should take photos of the scene. These pictures may show evidence of what was distracting the other driver and other valuable information about the injury accident.

A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help Prove the Accident Was Caused by Distracted Driving

Consider contacting a personal injury attorney immediately after your accident. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney can request that video be preserved from traffic control cameras, police dash-cam and police body-cams. Typically, the request must be made within 2-4 days of the accident, or the video will be taped over. On-scene videos can show evidence of distracted driving that can greatly assist in proving your injury claim.

If a driver’s cell phone records aren’t investigated at the time of a crash, a personal injury attorney can subpoena the records.

A personal injury attorney can also hire an investigator to conduct a more thorough examination of the crash. For example, the investigator can locate the other party’s vehicle and photograph the interior. Key types of evidence, such as spilled food or used reading material on the front seat, can shed light on what was going on before the crash. These experienced investigators know what to look for and may find items overlooked by victims or law enforcement.

Getting the right help soon after a crash, puts you in the best possible position for fair and full compensation.

Joseph M. Troy

Joe Troy is a Shareholder with the Firm. Joe had a long and distinguished career as a Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge and Chief Judge, before returning to private practice with Habush Habush & Rottier in 2007. Joe’s practice is dedicated exclusively to helping people who suffered personal injuries in accidents caused by other people’s carelessness and negligence. He has successfully recovered multi-million-dollar results for his clients in jury trials and settlements, but he has also helped hundreds of people with much smaller claims.  

In 2018 he was named Personal Injury Attorney of the Year by Best Lawyers®. In 2004 he was named Wisconsin Trial Judge of the Year by the American Board of Trial Advocates. Joe is Wisconsin’s first attorney to receive these distinctions as both a judge and attorney. Joe uses his unique experience as both a judge and attorney to help people who have suffered injuries which disrupt their lives, jeopardize their financial well-being, and impacts the lives of their loved ones.

Appleton, Green Bay / jtroy@habush.com

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