Phoenix Texting & Driving Accidents
The legal team of Abels & Annes, P.C. has seen car accident cases evolve over the years. One substantial change we’ve seen is the increase in crashes due to texting drivers. Texting and driving is against the law, is unsafe, and is generally unacceptable conduct. If you suffered injuries because of a distracted driver, you should know your legal rights and options for seeking compensation.
One of the best ways to prove another driver was using their cell phone when they caused your crash is to contact Abels & Annes, P.C. Our Phoenix car accident lawyers obtain successful results for car accident victims, and we are ready to assess and protect your rights.
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Increases in Texting and Driving in Phoenix
As technology advances, many aspects of life become more manageable. Technological ingenuity has led to advances in the convenience of thousands of daily tasks and activities, including driving. With greater vehicle technology comes the need for greater safety advances behind the wheel.
Though the majority of added technology created a safer vehicle, including seat belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, and backup cameras, not every advance has been positive. One of those technological advances that created serious safety risks is using cell phones, particularly the overwhelming frequency of texting while driving.
Cell phones improve each year, offering bigger screens and faster processors. Access to these devices means constant access to family, friends, and work. We live in an overly connected world with the use of cell phones, and no one wants to miss out on a single post, text, or email.
Unfortunately, texting - or any kind of messaging - and driving is a significant distraction that leads to serious car accidents. While many cell phone companies and manufacturers add features so drivers cannot use their phones while driving, these features go unused.
For example, some phones have a driving focus mode that a person can turn on automatically when the phone senses they are driving. The feature is optional, however, and many drivers do not opt to use it. In other cases, drivers with the feature enabled will turn it off when they need to use the phone for another task, like changing a song. Turning off the feature is a conscious decision and puts others in danger.
There are more than 3,000 deaths every year in the U.S. from distracted driving. Teenagers are the most common texters, and they will spend about 10 percent of their time outside of the lane when they are answering a text. Adults often do not learn the lesson and continue to read or send texts while driving at any age.
Even though there is a rise in cell phone usage across the nation, there are many bans on phones while driving. When you are in an accident with a person who was texting and driving, you must contact a Phoenix car accident attorney. A lawyer can determine whether another texting driver was to blame for your crash and injuries.
Types of distractions
Arizona allows for the use of a handheld device only when the device is in hands-free modes, such as when there is Bluetooth capability. However, the hands-free mode still allows for many distractions, especially when someone tries to voice-dictate a text while driving.
A driver can participate in three forms of distractions while on the road: manual, cognitive, and visual.
- A manual distraction is when your hands are off the steering wheel, such as by holding your phone.
- A visual distraction takes your eyes off the road, which happens when you look at your phone or at a hands-free display.
- A cognitive distraction is when your mind is off the road. When using a cell phone, you are not thinking about the road but about the action you are taking on your phone.
Cell phone usage, especially texting, requires drivers to take their hands, eyes, and minds off the road.
No message or work email is more important than arriving at a destination safely. Drivers need their attention to be on the road, and texting and driving prevent that. Sending a text message takes an average of five seconds, and an accident can easily occur during that time. A driver may not even realize what has happened until the crash because their eyes are off the road.
Drivers must pull off to the side of the road when they need to use the phone or use it in hands-free mode. The simple act of pulling over or waiting can save lives. When a driver fails to do so and causes injuries, they should be fully liable for the harm they cause.
The Mass Popularity of Smartphones Has Created Real Hazards
Cell phone usage while driving has received much attention recently, with many states taking action to limit cell phone usage. In states where no legislation exists, many cities, municipalities, and townships have created their own rules governing cell phones. Many states have enacted hands-free laws preventing motorists from holding a cell phone while driving to increase safety, but a more significant threat remains with texting while driving.
Texting while driving involves sending or reading a text while operating a motor vehicle. Studies show that texting while driving makes a motorist just as dangerous and likely to cause an accident as a drunk driver with a blood alcohol content at the legal level of 0.08. Yet while many drivers say they will never think of driving drunk because of the dangers, these same drivers choose to text behind the wheel and thus pose a serious threat to others.
[Visit the Arizona Department of Public Safety for more information.]
Arizona Laws on Texting and Driving
In recognition of this threat, 48 states now have bans against texting, many more than the 11 states that ban handheld cell phone use while driving. Arizona was one of the nine states without a specific ban on texting on the road, but that does not make it legal.
Arizona recently made texting while driving illegal, even though this law took a little longer than other states since the government believed texting while driving was already illegal. The laws in Arizona make it clear that reckless driving is against the law and can subject a motorist to criminal or traffic charges. Because of this, lawmakers thought this law was enough to consider texting while driving recklessly. Arizona’s ban on texting while driving is known as House Bill 2318.
In 2021, Arizona enacted a Hands-Off Law, which prohibits drivers from using their cell phones while driving. The law is for the entire state and has minimal exceptions. Using the phone for GPS directions is also against the law if the phone is in the driver’s hand. A passenger can have the GPS on their phone, or the driver can use a cell phone stand.
Drivers can also use Bluetooth connectivity to make hands-free calls. They can opt to use earpieces and headsets if it does not prevent the driver from hearing and responding to emergency signals.
There is also a legal exception for emergency calls, but the guidelines are vague, which leaves the door open for cell phone usage. Suppose a driver is on their phone and cited by law enforcement. They can easily say they were taking an emergency phone call and move on with their day.
There are fines for drivers who text and drive. When a driver violates the Hands-Off law, they will face a fine of $75 to $149, and a second offense is between $150 and $250. Drivers can also face an increase in their insurance rates. In some cases, drivers can face a license suspension.
The worst consequence is getting into an accident and causing injuries or wrongful death to others. If you are a victim of a distracted driving crash, you will need to contact a car accident attorney in Phoenix immediately to determine the best legal options to help you.
Victims of Car Accidents Caused by Texting and Driving
Unfortunately, drivers who text rarely get stopped before an accident happens. Often, it is only after a crash where someone is seriously hurt or injured that a driver realizes just how dangerous texting while driving is and how a single text message can change a driver’s life instantly.
A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that using a cell phone while driving decreased the brain activity associated with driving by a staggering 37 percent. With such a decrease in attention and focus on the road and the car, it is not surprising that accidents are more likely to occur when a driver is texting.
In addition to decreasing brain activity for driving, cell phone users may have a delayed reaction that contributes to an accident if they look at their phone and then look up at the road. This delayed reaction is similar to drunk driving as it decreases a driver’s opportunity to respond to dangers on the road.
The dangers of texting while driving don’t just impact distracted drivers. Drivers who follow safe driving practices are also at a heightened risk of an accident caused by a driver staring at their phone instead of the road. This risk creates a safety issue for a much larger number of people, including other drivers, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
Statistics on Texting while Driving
If you still think it is possible to safely text while driving, review these statistics to understand just how dangerous it is:
- Texting causes 1.3 million accidents in the United States every year.
- Texting and driving killed at least 2,841 people in 2018.
- Among those killed, 1,730 were drivers, 605 were passengers, 400 were pedestrians, and 77 were bicyclists.
- Every day 11 teenagers are killed in texting while driving accidents.
- Texting contributes to nearly 25 percent of all car accidents.
- Texting makes a driver 23 times more likely to cause a car accident than a driver who is not texting.
- On average, a driver who sends or reads a text takes their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, the same amount of time it takes to cover the distance of a football field if the car travels 55 miles per hour.
- A texting driver’s ability to react and brake slows by 18 percent.
- Texting is the most common driving distraction reported by young drivers.
- Arizona, Texas, and Florida have the highest distracted driver fatality ratio.
Many experts believe that texting while driving is more common than the above statistics reflect. Still, drivers attempt to lie or hide that they were texting while driving to limit liability or avoid additional punishment.
However, the numbers show texting significantly threatens the safety of those who text and those near a texting driver. When texting leads to an accident, other vehicles and drivers may suffer substantial consequences, like serious injuries or loss of life.
Arizona Car Accident Claims
While a handful of states have moved to a no-fault auto insurance system, Arizona has an at-fault system. This means that a negligent driver’s insurance company should be the one to cover the losses of any victims of the crash.
As a victim of an accident, you will need to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You never want to start this process without an attorney, as insurance companies can make claim processing much more difficult than you might ever imagine.
If the at-fault Arizona driver does not have an insurance policy, your best option will be to file a claim against your uninsured motorist insurance. If the driver has insufficient insurance to cover your damages, you can file a claim under an uninsured motorist provision. Again, you must have this provision in your policy before the accident to file a successful claim. In Arizona, these coverage options are optional but can be very beneficial during a severe accident.
Even if you need to file an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, you will need legal representation. Your own insurer can also make the claims process challenging, as all insurance companies want to minimize payouts as much as possible. This is true whether you are the policyholder or filing an at-fault claim.
Another provision you will have the option of adding to your car insurance policy is medical payments (med pay) coverage. Under this policy provision, an injured driver has up to their policy limits in medical coverage without considering fault for the accident. Since it is optional, you can only file a claim if you have the med pay coverage before the injury or accident occurs.
The protection can cover expenses like:
- Prescription medications
- Funeral expenses
- Medical bills
- Hospital visits
The claim you can file will depend on the other driver’s insurance, your car insurance, and how the accident happened. Your Phoenix car accident lawyer can review the facts of your case to find the best way to obtain compensation.
Proving the Fault of the Distracted Driver
Arizona requires victims to prove different legal elements to place liability and fault on a person. The first one is relatively simple; you must prove the driver owed you a duty of reasonable care. This element is simple because all Arizona drivers owe each other a duty of care by obeying traffic laws and keeping each other safe.
The next element is that the other driver breached that duty by texting and driving or another hazardous action. In cases involving a distracted driver, your lawyer might have evidence to prove that the driver was using their cell phone immediately before the accident.
The best way to establish cell phone usage is by pulling cell phone records. Your attorney might also have witness statements from people who saw the other driver looking at their phone or otherwise texting. There might be social media posts published right before the crash occurred or similar evidence.
Even if you do not have evidence that the driver was texting, you might still present evidence of erratic driving behavior. This might include straying from a lane, failing to stop at a red light, or other acts that commonly result from distracted driving.
Lastly, your lawyer must show that you suffered an injury and damages from the breach. While the concept sounds simple, it can become complex fairly quickly.
Your Phoenix car accident lawyer will need to provide evidence of fault and damages, which will vary from case to case.
Common evidence in texting and driving claims might include:
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Phone records
- Traffic citations
- Medical records
- Photographic evidence
- Electronic cache data
The right attorney can gather and provide plenty of evidence to the insurance company to prove the other driver was at-fault for the accident and prove the extent of your damages.
Injuries From Texting and Driving Accidents
Similar to other car accidents, texting and driving accidents can cause many serious injuries to victims. An accident can happen with other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcyclists.
Some common injuries are:
- Spinal injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Soft tissue damage
- Internal organ damage
- Traumatic brain injury
As a victim, you are likely in pain and unsure of what to do. First thing, you should get medical attention. This ensures you have a proper diagnosis of all your injuries and begin treatment immediately. Then, you should discuss your situation with an experienced car accident attorney to begin addressing your legal rights.
What Not to Do After a Texting and Driving Accident
No matter how you pursue compensation, the insurance company is constantly working to delay or deny your claim. They will use the tools in their arsenal to deny even a valid claim. You need protection from a skilled attorney from the start of the process.
An insurance adjuster will often send an initial settlement offer within a few weeks of the accident. Many victims believe the insurance company is doing the right thing by sending an offer, but the opposite is true. They are sending the offer to close the case for the least amount as quickly as possible. Within a few weeks, you may not know the full extent of your damages, and you are left to pay out of pocket because you took a lowball offer. Once you agree to an offer, you cannot pursue further compensation or legal recourse.
Do not settle your texting and driving claim before you get medical treatment and legal assistance. There is the possibility that you can suffer long-term effects from the accident, and you may not know until you receive all of your medical treatment. Examples of long-term effects of injuries include reduced mobility, less range of motion, and chronic pain.
A prime example of what you don’t want is accepting an offer while you are still undergoing physical therapy, and then you later find out you need a spinal injection or surgery. Once you accept the adjuster’s proposal, no more funds are available for the additional treatment.
Another thing to avoid is making any recorded statements to the insurance adjuster. These parties will move quickly to get you to say anything that can lower your compensation. When you receive a call from the insurance adjuster, immediately tell them to contact your Phoenix car accident lawyer instead of answering their questions.
One final action to avoid is posting on social media. In the modern world, it is a habit to post every second of our lives online, but you should not after a car crash. The insurance company and defense lawyers are looking for the slightest way to reduce your claim, and they will do so by looking at your digital fingerprint. Do not post any pictures or talk about the accident online. If you can, avoid social media until your case resolves.
You should, however, go to all of your doctors’ appointments and follow their advice. Do not do anything physically demanding, as the insurance companies can use this to say your injuries are not as severe as you claim. You should assume that they are watching you at all times. When you meet with your Phoenix car accident lawyer, they will outline other pitfalls you should avoid after an accident that can harm your compensation claim.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Texting and driving cases should be clear-cut. From the beginning, it is obvious the person who was using their cell phone was the person who led to your accident. However, they will try to deny it unless you have substantial evidence to show they were on their phone. That is where a Phoenix car accident lawyer comes in. Your attorney will gather as much evidence as possible and ensure your claim is strong and has proper support.
They will also help you understand your case and the possible outcomes. Having a lawyer who will walk you through the entire process and keep you up to date with what is happening is essential.
What to Do if You Are a Victim of Texting
Now that texting while driving is expressly prohibited by law, and it is clear that it is dangerous and a distraction, it is even easier to pursue compensation for damages caused by a texting and driving accident. When a texting driver causes you or your loved one to become injured, you may be entitled to financial relief that will help you pay for your medical expenses and otherwise compensate you for your damages.
Though the law allows you relief, you must bring a claim within a specified period after the accident, or you will lose your right to obtain a recovery. With time being of the essence, you should consider speaking with a Phoenix personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident.
At Abels & Annes, P.C., we understand what it can be like to be a victim of a texting driver. We have successfully represented victims of car, motorcycle, truck, and bus accidents, many of whom suffered an injury due to the negligence of a driver that was texting. We are standing by now to take your call at (602) 819-5191. We believe in fighting for the rights of accident victims and their families; that is the only type of legal work we do. We want to help you get the recovery you deserve.