Safe driving requires significant concentration. Though some situations demand more concentrated attention, drivers must focus and be prepared to act and react as needed. Unfortunately, there are numerous possible distractions, from looking at a GPS device for driving directions to texting.
It takes moments for danger to materialize. When a driver’s eyes are not on the road, they don’t realize when they’ve crossed the center line or drifted into an adjacent lane. They don’t see the driver in front of them putting on the brakes. If you sustained injuries in a car crash involving a distracted driver, you might be able to recover damages for your injuries.
What Should You Know About Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving can lead to serious accidents resulting in deaths or injuries. In 2019, distracted driving was a factor in 15% of all traffic accidents reported by law enforcement. These crashes led to 3,142 fatalities and an estimated 424,000 injuries.
Cell phone use caused approximately 28,000 injury accidents and 390 fatal crashes. Drivers aged 25-34 were more likely to be involved in a fatal distracted driving accident than any other age group, though those aged 35-44 were close behind.
Distracted Driving Defined
These days, when people talk about distracted driving, they most often think about cell phone usage. Using a mobile or other handheld device is just one type of distraction. A distraction is anything that diverts your attention or interferes with your driving ability. Distractions fall into three categories:
- Visual: Activities that take your eyes off the road
- Manual: Activities that take one or both hands off the steering wheel
- Cognitive: Activities that divert your mind from driving tasks
Given these three categories, it is clear that there are numerous potential distractions, such as eating and drinking, talking to a passenger, changing music, looking at a map and applying makeup or shaving.
A driver engaging in any of these behaviors is not upholding a duty of care to other motorists, cyclists or pedestrians. If you were in an accident involving a driver who was engaged in any activity that diverted the motorist’s attention from driving, you might be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to recover just compensation for your losses. A distracted driving accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal landscape and may improve your chances of securing a fair settlement.
New York’s Cell Phone Law
While there are multiple sources of distraction, much attention has focused on cell phone use. In 2021, about 97% of all Americans owned a cell phone, and 85% owned a smartphone. Smartphones make it easy to text, check emails and browse the internet. It is tempting for drivers to engage with their phones rather than focus on the road. Most states now have laws making it illegal to use a mobile or other handheld device while driving.
New York law prohibits using a cell phone or portable electronic device while driving. The state considers the following activities illegal:
- Holding a portable electronic device
- Talking on a cell phone
- Accessing, reading, composing, sending, browsing, saving, retrieving or transmitting electronic data, including text messages, emails or webpages
- Taking, transmitting or viewing images
- Playing games
The only exception to the law is using your cell phone to call 911 or contact police, fire or medical personnel for emergency assistance.
What Laws Affect a Distracted Driving Lawsuit?
A distracted driving civil suit is a type of personal injury claim. Three primary statutes impact whether you can file a claim and the outcome.
New York Car Insurance Laws
New York is a no-fault car insurance state. Motorists must have personal injury protection and file a claim with their own insurance company regardless of fault. You pay for this coverage, but the insurance company representatives may not want to pay you when the time comes to file a claim. They may offer a settlement that won’t cover the extent of your losses.
Even if they don’t offer you a low-ball payment, basic PIP coverage only pays for $50,000 in lost wages and medical expenses. Injuries from a distracted driving accident can quickly add up and cause you to miss significant work time.
Furthermore, PIP insurance never covers non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. No insurance policy does that. You can only recover these damages through a lawsuit. Fortunately, state insurance regulations permit legal claims if:
- Your injuries meet the state’s threshold for serious injury
- Your combined wage losses and medical expenses exceed your PIP limits
- You wish to pursue non-economic damages
Typically, any injury that meets the first standard passes the second one, and most people who experience significant wage loss and medical treatment also suffer harm beyond economic damages.
New York’s Pure Comparative Fault Law
No matter how severe your injuries are, your role in the accident impacts the outcome of your case. Often, more than one party shares blame for traffic accidents, and state law requires a consideration of fault before dispersing the settlement. New York’s pure comparative fault rule allows you to recover damages if you aren’t 100% at fault for the accident.
The amount you receive depends on your percentage of fault. If you bear 40% of the liability, the settlement you receive is 40% less than the total award. If you are 80% at fault, you can only recover 20% of the damages awarded. A distracted driving accident lawyer may be able to help you recover a higher percentage than you would through self-representation.
New York’s Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
Every state establishes deadlines for how long you have to initiate legal proceedings. The statute of limitations is a firm time limit. Missing the deadline means you forfeit your right to pursue legal action. In New York, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case is three years.
It may sound like plenty of time, but you might be surprised at how quickly it passes when you are focused on recovery and fighting with the insurance company. The best time to contact a Melville, N.Y., distracted driving accident lawyer is immediately following the accident.
What Does a Melville, N.Y., Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer Do?
A personal injury attorney helps you understand the legal process and walks you through it from beginning to end. A lawyer with experience handling distracted driving accident claims understands the laws involved and knows the tactics defense attorneys use to paint their clients in a better light.
An attorney should begin with a free case evaluation, examining the facts of your case and letting you know what challenges you might face. If you secure legal counsel, Cellino Law attorneys conduct the following:
- Gathering evidence
- Calculating damages
- Interviewing witnesses
- Collecting police and physician reports
- Obtaining statements from relevant professionals
- Negotiating with the other side
If the defense does not agree to a fair settlement during negotiations, our distracted driving accident lawyers do not hesitate to take your case to court and represent your best interests in the courtroom.
Where Can You Get Help With Your Distracted Driving Accident Case?
Cellino Law attorneys combine experience and knowledge with a personalized approach to personal injury cases. When you work with our Melville, N.Y., distracted driving accident lawyer, you get the individual attention you deserve. We won’t collect any payment until we win your case for you. We’re here for you. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.