Observers believe device distraction may have been a factor in a three-car wreck which started when a woman smacked into a squad car.
The officer, who was driving in emergency mode (emergency siren and lights on), was northbound on Preston Highway. At the intersection of Preston HIghway and the Outer Loop, a woman broadsided the cruiser. The force of the collision caused her vehicle to overturn. Emergency responders rushed her to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.
A third driver slammed into the wreckage, but that driver wasn’t hurt. The police officer wasn’t hurt either.
Device Distraction Claims
Cell phone ownership and use has exploded since the iPhone debuted in 2007. The first such gadget had such a slow processor that Apple boss Steve Jobs had several phones at the podium. He took them out one at a time to show the iPhone could do different things.
Today’s cell phones make the first iPhone look like tin cans connected by a string. Largely because of the greatly increased functionality, almost everyone agrees that it’s dangerous to use a hand-held cell phone while driving. Yet over 90 percent of drivers admit they use these devices while they are behind the wheel.
This disconnect greatly enhances the settlement value of a device distraction claim. Much like a new car’s sticker price, a negligence claim’s settlement value serves as the starting point for pretrial settlement negotiations.
Arguably, these distracted drivers intentionally disregard a known risk. Additionally, most people use their smartphones for non-business activities, like checking social media posts, that could clearly wait until drivers arrive at their destinations. This activity, and this attitude, rubs many Fayette County jurors the wrong way. Insurance company lawyers know this to be true, which is why they are often willing to make favorable pretrial deals.
Almost all injury claims settle out of court. These resolutions give victims more control over case outcomes. More importantly, settlements expedite the case, so victims get their checks sooner.
Cell Phones and Negligence Per Se
Negligence per se is a violation of a safety law which causes personal injury. In the Bluegrass State, such tortfeasors (negligent drivers) could be responsible for damages as a matter of law. This rule is one of the broadest ones in the county. Unfortunately for device distraction crash victims, Kentucky also has one of the narrowest cell phone bans in the country. It only applies to drivers under 18. A more limited texting-while-driving ban does apply to all motorists.
So, negligence per se device distraction claims are quite rare in this state. Moreover, even if the tortfeasor broke the cell phone law, negligence per se only applies if an emergency responder issues a citation. That frequently doesn’t happen. As far as many responders are concerned, car wrecks are civil matters, even if the crash seriously injures or kills someone.
Device Distraction and Ordinary Negligence
Therefore, a Lexington personal injury attorney must normally use the ordinary negligence doctrine in a device distraction claim. Basically, ordinary negligence is a lack of ordinary care.
When they are behind the wheel, drivers must concentrate on driving. They cannot multitask their way through their trips like they multitask their way through a work day. It’s pretty easy to do several things at once behind a desk. It’s incredibly dangerous to do several things at once behind the wheel.
To most jurors, pretty much any hand-held cell phone use is a breach of duty, as mentioned above. Extremely brief use, like swiping to the right or glancing at a chiming phone, is about the only exception.
Device use logs usually establish the extent of use. These records clearly show when the phone was in use and what app the tortfeasor was using.
If the breach causes injury, a victim is entitled to compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
The ordinary negligence doctrine also applies to other forms of distracted driving, such as using a hands-free phone and non-device distraction. According to one study, driving while using a hands-free phone is as bad as driving drunk. Non-device distraction, like eating while driving, is a bigger problem in many areas than device distraction.
On a related note, distracted driving is also a serious problem among police officers. A squad car is more like a mobile command center. Moreover, police officers are constantly on the lookout for criminal activity. Driving is secondary, at best.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.