For the most past, smartphones and other wireless internet devices have improved our lives. Distracted driving is perhaps the most significant exception to this general rule. Every year, inattentive motorists seriously injure roughly 400,000 Americans. Cell phones are not responsible for all those injuries, but they do cause a lot of them.
Compensation in a distracted driving case usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases. Based on the facts of the claim, a Fort Worth personal injury attorney has two legal options in distracted driving cases.
Distracted Driving and Negligence Per Se
Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) are usually liable for damages as a matter of law if they violate a safety law, like the new cell phone law, and that violation substantially causes injury.
For many years, Texas had essentially no cell phone ban. But in September 2017, a tougher law took effect. House Bill 62 prohibits texting while driving. “Texting” means sending or viewing any text-based message, such as an email, social media post, or cell phone text message.
A number of cities in Texas have enacted much tougher cell phone laws. These laws generally prohibit any hand-held device use, except perhaps a GPS navigation gadget. Fort Worth does not have such an ordinance, but the following North Texas cities do have such a law:
Little Elm, and
These city ordinances usually have very small fines. But in Texas, the amount of the fine is irrelevant in a negligence per se claim. If there’s a law on the books, that’s all that matters.
Distracted Driving and Ordinary Negligence
Texas’ cell phone law does not apply to non-texting device use, such as taking a picture, video chatting, or surfing the web. As a result, many people still use their phones while driving. Hand-held cell phones combine all three forms of distracted driving, which are:
Visual (taking one’s eyes off the road),
Manual (taking one’s hand off the wheel), and
Cognitive (taking one’s mind off driving).
This list includes a lot of activities other than texting on a hand-held cell phone. For example, using a hands-free cell phone is both cognitively and visually distracting. Other distracted driving activities include eating while driving and talking to passengers while driving. So, even if the activity is legal, it could still be negligent.
If the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) behavior fell below the standard of care, and the failure to use reasonable care substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s injury, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages.
Distracted drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.