Hit by a Distracted Driver: What Happens Next?

30 October

In California, the number of licensed drivers has increased by 14.7% since 2010. While there has been a decrease in car accidents, the numbers are still high. According to the 2019 Annual Report of Fatal and Injury Motor Vehicle Traffic Collisions, there were 187,211 injury crashes and 3,438 fatalities. To put things in perspective, 2019 did not have a single day without a car accident. For Golden State drivers, car accidents are inevitable, and a significant cause is distracted driving. 

Distracted driving causes a driver to take their eyes off the road. Driving and dialing, talking, or texting on a cell phone are dangerous and increase the risk of a crash by three times. In this article, you will gain an understanding of the nuances of distracted driving and receive valuable tips. If you have a specific question, please contact our experienced attorneys at Dan Rose to assess the particular circumstances of your case.

What is Distracted Driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) leads national campaigns against distracted driving. The way they define “distracted driving” for Americans is, “anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the task of safe driving.”

In California, distracted driving means, “anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road, or hands off the steering wheel – especially when texting or using your phone.” Under this definition, much of a driver’s conduct can fall under this distracted driving definition.

Distracted driving activities fall under three categories

Visual Distractions

These occur when a driver looks at anything other than the road. Visual distractions include:

  • Glancing at the GPS device (either phone or car screen) for directions
  • Looking at children or pets in the vehicle
  • Reading text messages
  • Looking at videos playing on car televisions

Manual distractions

A manual distraction happens when a driver takes their hands off the steering wheel. Some examples include:

  • Drafting or sending a text message
  • Adjusting the car radio or adjusting the heat or air conditioning controls
  • Reaching for a snack or drink
  • Brushing your hair or other personal grooming
  • Rummaging for an item in a bag or the car

Cognitive distractions

These occur when a driver takes their mind off the road. Examples of mental distractions include:

  • Talking on your phone, even if you are using a hands-free device
  • Daydreaming
  • Actively listening to a podcast or singing along to music
  • Speaking with passengers in your car

California’s distracted driving law doesn’t make everything illegal. It’s unlikely to be pulled over if a driver reaches over to grab a French fry from a bag sitting next to them, even though it could be considered a “manual distraction.” The real problem is when reaching over to get something causes the driver to drive erratically or speed, creating a dangerous or “reckless” situation.

While any distracting behavior has the potential to create a dangerous driving condition, the use of cell phones or similar electronic devices has the highest correlation to accident rates. A study showed that dialing, talking, and texting increase the risk of a car accident by three times.

Distracted Driving Accidents and Injuries

Injuries sustained in car accidents caused by distracted drivers vary. Many factors can contribute to the severity of injuries. These include the location of the accident, circumstances surrounding the crash, the speed of the vehicles, the force of the impact, and the driver’s conduct at the time of the crash.  

Common accidents caused by distracted driving can include:

  • A rear-end crash occurs when a driver is distracted and following the car in front of them too closely; they can fail to break in time and collide with the rear of the other vehicle. 
  • T-bone accidents happen at an intersection where one car crashes into another, creating a “T” formation upon impact.
  • Multiple car pileup is when a distracted driver follows another car too closely and fails to stop. This can set off a chain of events and result in numerous vehicles crashing into one another.  
  • Sideswipes —Distracted drivers who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings are more likely to jump into a lane without seeing the car next to them, causing a sideswipe.
  • Head-on collisions are when a distracted driver veers into oncoming traffic.

After any car accident, it’s critical to seek medical attention immediately. Even when the crash seemed inconsequential, adrenaline and other factors may mask the extent of the actual injuries. Documenting the extent of injuries is essential, even for those with health insurance and in no-fault states. While no-fault benefits may cover a certain amount of your lost wages and medical expenses, these benefits can quickly be exhausted when serious injuries occur. When this happens, you can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover your damages.

What to do After a Distracted Driving Accident

Once you are involved in a car crash with a distracted driver, your first step should be to call the police when it’s safe to do so. Request an ambulance, even if you think you’re okay. You should be evaluated by a medical professional and receive timely medical care if needed. If you were the driver and had passengers in the car, it’s crucial for everyone in the vehicle to get checked for injuries. Some injuries may not show up immediately. A medical report can serve as evidence if you file a lawsuit.

If you feel fine, taking pictures of the vehicles would be helpful. Photographing your injuries, the location of the accident, and any damages will show the extent of the car accident. Perhaps there were damaged signs, guardrails, skid marks, or other evidence showing how bad the accident was.

You should also document what you recall about the accident on your phone or in a notepad. Perhaps you noticed the driver talking on their cell phone right before the collision. Maybe you saw the car swerving or speeding and tried to avoid it. Writing this information down can help you later if you file a lawsuit.

This is all information that you should give the police, too. Depending on the extent of your injuries, you can collect information from the other parties involved or any bystanders while you wait for the police and ambulance to arrive. Helpful information to obtain includes:

  • Names
  • Contact information
  • Insurance information
  • Any identifying information about the car, such as make, model, license plate number, and driver’s license details

All this information will be collected in a police report once they arrive. Obtaining the police report is important, especially if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit. A police report will be produced at the end of the investigation and you will be entitled to a copy.

Do not talk to other people about the accident. You want to avoid making any statement that can be used against you. Examples that may show blame include apologizing or explaining what happened at the accident. 

You might also want to contact the insurance company to report the accident. Avoid speaking to your insurer about who was at fault.

However, if your injuries are severe, it’s best to seek medical attention first. Even if you can’t piece together information at the time of the crash, having an experienced personal injury attorney can help you present your best case. An attorney can help collect evidence and details about the car accident.

Injured by a Distracted Driver in California? Our Injury Lawyer Team Can Help

In California, if you were hit by a distracted driver, our experienced attorneys can help.

Car accidents that are caused by distracted driving can be stressful and overwhelming. A San Francisco personal injury lawyer with experience navigating car accident lawsuits can help you understand your legal options and provide support to help you.