Distracted driving causes thousands of collisions each year. While Georgia law enforcement agencies have tried to crack down on texting and driving, handheld cell phone use, and other distractions, it continues to cause problems. When anything takes a driver’s eyes off the road or hands off the wheel, the risk of a crash increases greatly.
If you were hurt in a distracted driving accident, a car accident lawyer could help you document your injuries and expenses and seek compensation. You could seek justice by holding the distracted driver legally responsible for the costs and losses you experienced. Your attorney can help you navigate the claims process or sue the at-fault driver for compensation.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving represents a leading cause of collisions in Georgia and across the country, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Driving safely requires intense concentration and coordination. Anything that breaks that concentration or reduces a driver’s coordination can cause an accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distractions occur behind the wheel in one of three forms:
Visual distractions occur when the motorist takes their eyes off the road ahead. They stop looking ahead for issues or scanning nearby traffic for cars looking to merge. They may even look away long enough to make it difficult to maintain their lane, see traffic signals or signs, or observe stopped traffic in front of them.
Visual distractions include:
- Reading texts
- Watching videos
- Looking at children or pets in the backseat
- Looking for items elsewhere in the vehicle
Manual distractions take a driver’s hand off the steering wheel. This makes it more difficult to control the car, react quickly when necessary, and avoid hazards. Manual distractions often occur alongside visual and cognitive distractions.
- Using a handheld phone
- Putting on makeup
- Changing the radio station
- Entering an address into a GPS or navigation app
- Reaching for dropped items
- Handing items to children in the backseat
Cognitive distractions often prove difficult to track, and many drivers may not realize when they occur. They take your mind off of driving. When drivers do not give driving their full focus, they often make careless mistakes that can lead to accidents. This is why experts advise against driving when angry or upset.
Cognitive distractions can include:
- Conversations on the phone or with others in the vehicle
- Children fighting in the backseat
- Unrestrained pets
- Issues at work or in their personal life
- Big decisions they have to make
- Sick family members
- Running late
- Comparatively minor concerns, such as the grocery list
According to statistics provided by the NHTSA and analyzed by the CDC, about 3,000 people die in crashes caused by distracted drivers each year. Many more suffer injuries. Both agencies also point out that statistics likely underreport these numbers. Many people will not admit to texting or engaging in other activities before causing a collision, making it difficult to track.
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What Causes Distracted Driving Accidents?
Since any visual, manual, or cognitive distraction can cause a crash, a driver may encounter countless distractions. While many drivers strive to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, they may find the temptation towards distraction too strong. Sometimes, they underestimate the danger of glancing at their phone or reaching for a dropped item.
Anything that takes your full attention away from the road in front of you and traffic around you may prove a distraction.
Some common activities that may cause distracted driving accidents include:
- Reading, typing, or sending a text message
- Talking on a cell phone, even a hands-free device, as required under Georgia law
- Entering information in your navigation system or app
- Eating while driving
- Looking at something outside or rubbernecking at an accident scene
- Reaching for something in the backseat, passenger seat, or floor
- Changing the radio, putting in a CD, or choosing a new song
- Adjusting the heat or air conditioning
- Having conversations with passengers
- Children in the backseat
- Pets, especially when unrestrained
- Insects or other annoyances in the car
- Daydreaming or preoccupation with another issue, such as work
When motorists have distractions that keep them from focusing fully on driving, their behavior behind the wheel changes.
This can cause:
- Scanning the road ahead and nearby traffic less frequently
- Slowed reaction time
- Weaving or trouble maintaining a lane
- Lowered use of peripheral vision
- Reduced ability to stop in time
- Difficulty recognizing traffic signs or signals
These behaviors may contribute to many traffic law violations and increased accident risk, whether alone or together. For example, failing to monitor nearby traffic along with slowed reaction time can mean a driver doesn’t recognize stopped cars—and slams into them. Failing to maintain a lane on I-285 could lead to a sideswipe crash. Failing to recognize a traffic sign could cause a T-bone collision when a driver runs a stop sign.
When a driver violates a traffic law and causes a crash, they generally bear legal responsibility for the expenses and losses victims suffer. This could include their injuries, medical care, lost income, vehicle repairs, intangible losses, and more.
You could hold a distracted driver liable and recover compensation for your damages even if you cannot prove they drove distracted. You only need to show they acted negligently. Your attorney knows which evidence could best support your claim and help you recover compensation based on it.
Serious Injuries Can Result From Distracted Driving Crashes
The severity of a collision depends on several factors, including the speed of each vehicle, how the crash occurs, the size and weight of each car, and the individual circumstances of the crash. Distracted driving can lead to minor fender benders, catastrophic injuries, and fatal crashes.
Suppose your accident occurs in Atlanta, and the first responders believe you may have serious injuries.
In that case, they will likely transfer you to one of Fulton County’s two Level 1 trauma centers for adults:
- Grady Memorial Hospital
- WellStar Atlanta Medical Center
These facilities can assess your needs, stabilize your injuries, and offer treatment and rehabilitation in the same facility. They also have trauma surgeons available for the most serious injuries that require immediate surgery. You will likely go to one of these two hospitals if you have a catastrophic injury such as a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, traumatic amputation, burn injuries, or significant bleeding.
Even crash victims with less obvious or less severe injuries, such as lacerations, fractures, contusions, and joint injuries, may require immediate medical attention. The paramedics can determine your best options based on their initial assessment of your condition.
Car accident injuries can prove expensive, regardless of where you go for treatment. You could have medical bills, lost income, car repairs, and other expenses you should not have to pay for if you did not cause them. In this situation, the at-fault driver’s mandatory auto liability insurance comes in.
Through an insurance claim or lawsuit, you could recover compensation for:
- Your related medical expenses, including future and ongoing care needs
- Lost income until you can return to work
- Reduced earning capacity if you cannot return to your previous job
- Car repair or replacement of a totaled vehicle
- Miscellaneous expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Other intangible damages
You should understand the possible fair settlement value of your claim and how to document your damages. However, a lawyer can also handle this crucial step for you. Your attorney can work with experts to estimate your future and ongoing expenses and value your non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.
Knowing the potential settlement range of your claim is vital before you begin negotiating with the insurer. If you don’t have this estimated figure in mind, you may settle for far less than your medical bills and other expenses. Unfortunately, crash victims often underestimate their costs in these cases. Again, this is where you may want to have a lawyer to ensure you know your damages’ worth.
Wrongful Death in a Georgia Distracted Driving Crash
Under Georgia law, spouses, children, and parents could recover compensation if their loved one dies because of a distracted driver. You should discuss your options with an attorney’s team if your family experienced the wrongful death of a loved one in a Georgia crash. Recoverable damages could include final burial expenses, income losses, lost services, and non-economic damages suffered by survivors.
Building a Case to Support Compensation in a Distracted Driving Crash
Under Georgia law, your lawyer can help an accident victim hold a distracted driver accountable by showing they acted negligently and caused our client’s injuries and other damages.
To show that negligence occurred, we must identify these four elements in your case:
- Duty of Care: The at-fault driver was obliged to do (or not do) something based on traffic laws.
- Breach of Duty: The driver breached their duty of care by violating a traffic law.
- Causation: The driver’s breach of duty directly caused the collision.
- Harm: Our client suffered physical, financial, and/or psychological harm from the crash.
You should note that distracted driving alone does not always directly cause the crash. Generally, a distracted driver may violate a traffic law when they cause the accident, such as failing to yield at a stop sign. Therefore, you do not need to show the driver drove distracted to recover compensation. However, this could support your claim.
For example, imagine a driver was texting behind the wheel. They did not look up from their phone in time to see a red light in front of them. As a result, they ran the light and collided with your vehicle.
In this situation, the driver had a duty of care to stop at a red light. The breach of duty occurred when they ran the light. This was the cause of the crash and the harm you suffered. You do not need to provide evidence they were texting, but you need a police report or eyewitness testimony to verify they ran the light.
Who Is Liable for My Georgia Distracted Driving Crash?
In most cases, the distracted driver who caused the collision will bear liability. If you can show they acted negligently, you could hold them legally responsible for your losses and expenses through an insurance claim or lawsuit. However, Georgia recognizes vicarious liability for employers. Therefore, their employer could bear liability if the driver was behind the wheel of a truck or another commercial vehicle.
How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help After a Distracted Driving Collision
Distracted driving accident lawyers represent victims of these collisions and fight for fair compensation for their clients. Most do so based on contingency. They charge no upfront fees and only receive attorney’s fees when they recover money damages in the case.
Until the case closes, your attorney can handle all aspects of your case from when you sign on for their representation.
- Protecting your rights
- Managing all communication with the insurer and at-fault driver
- Providing you with regular case updates
- Investigating the crash
- Developing a strong claim
- Handling all paperwork
- Negotiating with the insurer
- Advocating for your best interests
Your attorney may recommend suing the at-fault driver based on the circumstances of the case. You lawyer may believe this is a good idea for numerous reasons, including when you have limited time left to file a lawsuit. Under Georgia law, victims generally have up to two years to file their complaint in a Fulton County civil court or another appropriate jurisdiction. There are exceptions, though.
Connect With an Attorney’s Team for a Free Distracted Driving Case Review
Why us? Most car accident law firms provide free consultations for victims hurt in distracted driving collisions. You could talk to a team member who can assess your case and explain your options in detail for free. This may allow you to better understand your rights after this type of crash. Contact a personal injury lawyer’s team near you to get started today.