More and more provinces and localities are prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving. The evidence is clear that texting or using a cell phone while driving significantly increases the risk of being involved in an accident, and laws have been put in place in order to lower the amount of accidents that occur due to distracted driving and punish those who violate those laws. However, you can get a lot more than a ticket if you get into an accident while texting and driving or using your cell phone.
If You Use a Cell Phone, You May Be Liable
When one driver sues another in a car accident case, the person who’s suing (the plaintiff) has to show that the other person (the defendant) did something to cause the accident. Typically the plaintiff will claim that the defendant was negligent, meaning that he or she did something to make conditions unsafe or didn’t do something to protect himself or herself and others on the road. In some recent court cases, plaintiffs had argued that the defendant should be held legally liable for the accident through negligence because the driver had used a cell phone either during or immediately before the collision. Courts are starting to agree with these arguments on a more and more frequent basis, and if you’re found at fault in a case like this you could wind up owing fines or even serving jail time if the injuries the victim sustained were severe enough.
When is Cell Phone Use Considered Negligent?
The law is often complex, and there is rarely a straightforward answer as to what is or isn’t considered negligent or careless. However, there are a few types of cell phone-related driving behaviors that are almost always considered negligent.
Only driving with one hand in order to hold a phone or text with the other.
Not looking at the road while reaching for your phone, dialing a number, or texting.
Not being vigilant about your surroundings because a cell phone distracted you – even if that cell phone is your passenger’s.
Becoming distracted because of a conversation you’re having on a cell phone – even if you’re using a hands-free device.
What About Employees?
If you’re using your car or your employer’s car on business and you are charged with negligence in an accident due to cell phone use, your employer will likely be the one getting sued. This is because most insurance companies feel that the employer has “deeper pockets”, and also because employers are legally responsible for their employees’ behavior while that employee is on the job. However, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. It’s not uncommon for your employer to then sue you if they have been left holding the bag for an accident that you were found at fault for due to cell phone usage and/or negligence.
It Was Only a Second
Many people believe that if they just look down for a second to check a message or hit the answer button they’ve done nothing wrong. It’s a common misconception that the few seconds it takes to look at a phone, pick up a phone, or answer a text can’t be enough time to cause an accident. However, you’re moving much faster than you think you are in a car. For instance, assume you’re driving 40 miles per hour. It doesn’t seem that fast, but that means you’re traveling about 58 feet per second. Consider also that the average reaction time of drivers on the road is 3/4 of a second. If you’re not paying attention to the road during that second, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll wind up in an accident.
If you’ve been sued in a car accident case, you still have legal options. While driving and using a cell phone is illegal, every situation is different. Only a legal professional can guide you through the ins and outs of the legal system and help protect you through the process. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, be sure to contact a personal injury attorney today to make sure you’re getting the best legal care possible.