Injured By a Chatty Driver? We Can Help.

Automated technology – such as self-driving cars – brings with it questions about liability and personal injury. We are prone to trust ourselves most when it comes to the important job of operating a vehicle, so we’re naturally a little suspicious of the idea that a machine might be able to do it better. We don’t like the idea of giving up control.

That being said, we may be more distracted by the technology at our fingertips than we are in danger of being in an accident caused by something like an automated vehicle. Despite state and local efforts to curb cell phone use while driving, distraction from cell phone use is still a significant cause of vehicle crashes.

It’s not just being on a phone call that’s a problem. While having a phone conversation and driving are both activities that require active mental alertness, studies suggest that drivers are routinely engaging in more risky behaviors such as texting, sending emails, scrolling through social media and otherwise using their phones for purposes other than making calls.

An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety survey conducted last year showed that drivers were 57 more likely to be manipulating a cellphone than drivers in a 2014 survey, a change from 2.3 percent to 3.4 percent of observed drivers.

Distracted driving caused by cell phone use is definitely on the rise. The question is how at risk you are to be injured by another driver, especially one who is using a cell phone instead of watching the road. And when should you call a Dallas personal injury attorney to discuss your case?

Approximately 37,000 people died in 2017 from vehicle crash related injuries, according to the IIHS report. Fatal crash risk is estimated to be 66 percent higher when manipulating a phone, meaning 800 of the 37,000 crash deaths in 2017 could be attributed to cell phone related distraction, according to the IIHS research. However, the National Safety Council posits that cell phone use as a cause of vehicle crashes is underreported. According to the NSC, more than half of U.S. states lack fields on written police reports in which to capture texting and cell phone use, among other related distractions. The NSC puts motor vehicle accident fatalities at greater than 40,000 per year for the past three years and reports you are four times as likely to be in a motor vehicle crash if using a cell phone while driving, according to the NSC. Even if operating the device hands free, using a cell phone while driving not only puts you, your passengers and other drivers at risk. It also opens you up to more potential for liability if you seriously injure someone because of your negligence.

Commercial vehicle crashes are another element to consider when evaluating a personal injury claim. Employers can be held liable for injuries caused by their drivers. If your business relies on commercial drivers, you need a strong policy against cell phone use while driving. Drivers who injure others in motor vehicle crashes open themselves and the company up to potential liability. Employers should understand the breadth of their liability. If an employee is acting within the scope of their employment during a crash, the employer can be held liable through a legal principle known as vicarious responsibility.

The biggest thing you can do to protect yourself from a distraction-related crash is to not be part of the problem. When you are attentive to your driving, you’ll be more aware of when someone else is not.

Use your phone’s “Do not disturb while driving” feature. If your car has Bluetooth capability, set your phone to automatically go in to “Do not disturb” mode when it detects Bluetooth. If your car does not have Bluetooth capability, consider downloading a smartphone blocker app such as LifeSaver or DriveSafe Mode. These apps use GPS location and motion sensing to limit cell phone use while driving. Some apps can also be activated remotely, so they are also a good way to keep teen drivers safe. Teach teen drivers safe driving habits, including avoiding cell phone use while driving.

Train employees not to use their cell phones while driving. While commercial vehicle operators may be more visibly liable, employees of other types of businesses can also incur liability for their employer if they were operating the vehicle within the scope of their employment during a crash.

Finally, if you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, be prepared to call a Dallas personal injury attorney to discuss your claim. The other party’s insurance company will move quickly to settle an injury claim. If your injuries are serious, you owe it to yourself to talk to a skilled personal injury attorney to evaluate your case and help you determine whether to seek additional damages.

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