Use of handheld electronic devices in cars continues to rise in the O.C.

In 2008, the California legislature passed a law prohibiting motorists from talking on handheld cell phones while driving. The following year saw the passage of a law which made it an offense for drivers to text while operating a motor vehicle. Nonetheless, the number of Californians using electronic devices behind the wheel is rising. The Orange County Register reports that more county residents are using their phones while driving now than when the bans went into effect. Unfortunately, the number of car accidents involving drivers who are texting or on the phone is also increasing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the number of fatalities resulting from distracted driving accidents has also increased in the past few years, from 3,267 in 2011 to 3,331 in 2011, the most recent year for which such figures are available.

Proving that distracted driving caused an accident

If a motorist is injured in a distracted driving automobile accident and wishes to recover damages from the driver who caused the crash, the motorist may file suit claiming that the other driver was negligent. To establish the other driver's negligence, the injured motorist must prove the elements that comprise a common-law negligence claim:

  • The duty to use ordinary care
  • A breach of this duty by the defendant
  • The breach caused injuries or damages to the plaintiff
  • Actual injuries or damages

Normally, a driver has the duty to use reasonable care when operating a vehicle. A driver breaches that duty when he or she fails to pay attention to the roads and other vehicles around him or her.

Research has shown that driving while texting or talking on a hand-held phone increases the likelihood that an accident will occur. The NHTSA reports that using a phone while driving multiplies the risk of getting into an accident by a factor of four. In addition, using a handheld phone while driving causes a driver to be distracted in three ways: by taking his or her eyes off the road; by taking his or her hands off the steering wheel; and by taking his or her mind off the activity at hand. A plaintiff can argue that the defendant's use of a phone to make a call or text while operating a motor vehicle is a breach of the driver's duty to use reasonable care.

A plaintiff may wish to hire an expert to prove that the driver's cell phone use caused the crash and its attendant injuries to the plaintiff. An individual who has researched the effects of driving while texting or talking on a handheld device can inform the jury about why these activities lead to reduced reaction times and accidents.

To prove damages, a plaintiff may present medical bills and car repair invoices. The testimony of a payroll employee from plaintiff's workplace can be used to prove time away from work due to the accident and lost wages.

Most importantly, a plaintiff will have to prove that the defendant was actually using an electronic device at the time of the accident. A plaintiff may have to subpoena records from the cell phone company showing when the defendant using the phone. Eyewitness testimony from people who saw the accident may also be necessary.

If you have been injured in an accident and you believe that distracted driving caused the crash, you should contact an attorney to discuss your options. Together, you can compile the proof needed to pursue your claim successfully.