The most common types of distracted driving include visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. Many states have laws prohibiting motorists from any action that takes their eyes, hands, or mind off the wheel.
We normally hear a lot about texting, phone calls, and other electronic devices causing problems, but many other issues could lead to a distracted driving crash, too. If you believe the driver who caused your collision was distracted, a car accident lawyer can hold them liable and recover compensation for your damages.
Types of Distractions That Could Cause Collisions
Almost anything inside or outside of your car could be a distraction. Distractions prevent a driver from using their full attention and faculties to navigate traffic, follow traffic laws, and prevent accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three primary types of distractions lead to distracted driving crashes. They include:
Visual distractions take the driver’s eyes off the road ahead. Drivers need to watch the road for hazards, maneuver lane changes, and maintain their own lanes. When a driver looks away from the road ahead, even for a split second, their crash risk increases greatly.
Unfortunately, many tasks take more than a split second. This could result in failure to maintain their lane, swerving into the path of oncoming cars, failing to see stopped traffic, or running off the road. Visual distractions could also be outside of the car and cause similar problems.
Manual distractions occur when something takes the driver’s hand or hands off the wheel. Have you ever looked over while driving and seen the motorist in the next lane eating a cheeseburger? Shaving? Putting on makeup? All of these are examples of manual distractions. Reaching over to pick up dropped items, tune the radio, or adjust the air conditioning are all everyday examples.
When you take one or both hands from the steering wheel, you sacrifice full control of your vehicle. You are no longer able to take evasive and defensive actions at the first sign of an issue. Quickly taking one hand from the wheel to adjust the air conditioning dial is probably safe under most circumstances as long as your other hand remains on the wheel and your eyes stay on the road ahead.
However, many tasks drivers attempt behind the wheel are unsafe because of the combination of distraction types. A motorist should never take both hands off the wheel for any period, no matter how short, while the car is in motion.
It takes a lot of concentration to drive safely. Anything that takes your mind away from that task is a cognitive distraction. They are the most difficult type of distraction to identify because they occur solely in the driver’s mind. Humans naturally perform better at physical and cognitive tasks when they are not stressed, mad, sad, or overwhelmed. Having anything else on your mind could increase your risk of a crash.
While it may seem like many tasks you complete while driving work on autopilot and occur out of habit, this is untrue. Your brain evaluates options, assesses risks, and makes decisions while you drive. Any disruption in doing so could cause a collision.
How Do Distractions Affect Driving?
Unfortunately, many of these distractions occur concurrently. One type of distraction let’s say looking back at a child in the backseat is enough to cause a crash. However, they often happen together. The children in the backseat are fighting over a toy, so your hand leaves the wheel to take it away, or they ask a question, and you have to consider the correct response.
Texting, one of the most well-known distractions, generally requires you to take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the primary task of driving. When all three of these distractions occur at the same time, the chances of a crash increase dramatically. The length of time you remain distracted also plays a significant role in your risk.
According to NHTSA, a driver who takes five seconds to read a text at 55 miles per hour goes the length of a football field during that time without ever looking at the road ahead. Consider what happens if they think about a response and take ten seconds or more to type a response. If the process takes them 30 seconds, they have gone almost half a mile without putting their full focus on driving.
Using a Phone Behind the Wheel Endangers Road Users
Texting is not the only distraction that combines all three common types of distractions. Tuning the radio, calming down children in the backseat, reaching for dropped items, and many other actions could, as well. However, most involve using cell phones or other technology in the car.
After an accident, your car accident lawyer will understand the dangers of:
- Entering an address in the GPS or phone app
- Watching videos on your phone
- Making a phone call, with or without a hands-free device
- Checking or updating social media
- Reading to answering emails
- Using voice-to-text features
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 48 states and the District of Columbia have laws against texting and driving. These laws include other smartphone activity, such as social media or emailing, too. Only half of these states (and DC) have bans on handheld phone calls behind the wheel. However, handheld phone calls also cause visual, manual, and cognitive distractions.
What Are Some Examples of Driving Distractions?
There are things some drivers do daily that actually create significant distractions. While some are obvious, others aren’t.
Consider this list of common driving distractions:
- Reading or sending a text message
- Talking on a handheld phone
- Checking voicemails or dialing a phone
- Entering an address or consulting a navigation system
- Eating or drinking while driving
- Adjusting the climate control system
- Driving with earbuds in your ears
- Putting on makeup or handling other grooming tasks
- Distractions from children in the backseat
- Conversations with other passengers
- Unrestrained pets in the car
- Looking for a song, pairing Bluetooth, or otherwise turning the radio
- Adjusting your seat or other vehicle controls
- Outside distractions, such as crashes or stopped traffic
What Should I Do if a Distracted Driver Caused My Injury Crash?
Discussing your legal options with an attorney is a good idea after any collision. Because personal injury lawyers generally provide free case assessments, you have nothing to lose. During this free initial consultation, the attorney or their team will ask questions about your situation, get an idea of what happened, and review your likely options based on what they learn. There is no obligation to hire the firm to handle your case.
How Will an Attorney Help Me With My Case?
Your attorney will know what it takes to hold a driver legally responsible and recover compensation. They will have the knowledge, experience, and resources to investigate the crash, gather evidence, and seek money for the damages you suffered. Legal teams generally handle their clients’ cases from start to finish, managing all aspects of the claim and/or lawsuit.
As a crash victim, you can focus on healing while you trust your lawyer to take care of the rest. They will protect your rights, manage all communication with the at-fault driver and their insurance carrier, and take the steps necessary to secure the payout you need.
Questions You May Have About Distracted Driving Accidents
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a distracted driving accident, you may have these questions as you weigh your legal options:
What Are the Recoverable Damages in a Distracted Driving Crash?
The damages available in your distracted driving injury crash case depend on the expenses and losses you experienced because of the accident. These differ based on the circumstances, your injuries, necessary treatments, and more. No two accidents are the same. Your attorney will help you gather documentation to show your recoverable damages, including a wide range of expenses related to your injuries.
Most states allow crash victims to seek economic and non-economic damages.
These losses include:
- Medical bills, current and future
- Ongoing care and support costs
- Income losses from missing work during treatment and recovery
- Diminished earning capacity (if there are lasting impairments from the crash)
- Property damages, including the replacement of totaled cars
- Miscellaneous-related expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Other non-economic damages, including disability
- Wrongful death damages if the victim passes away
How Can I Recover Compensation and Hold a Distracted Driver Accountable?
Most winning car accident cases end with a settlement agreement with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. However, some cases require a civil lawsuit.
Even if your lawyer files a lawsuit in your case, it is more likely to settle than to go to trial. Settlement negotiations generally continue during pre-trial motions, discovery, and other parts of the legal process. Some courts require mediation or other alternative dispute resolution attempts before scheduling a trial.
However, if taking your case to trial is necessary, your lawyer should do so. They will present the evidence to the judge and jury and ask for a verdict that honors the expenses and losses you suffered.
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit?
There are many factors that outline how long you have to file a lawsuit after a distracted driving accident. These factors include where you live, when you discovered your injury, and other aspects of your situation. You generally have one to four years to file and some states feature longer filing periods than others.
For instance, if you live in Georgia, you generally have two years to file your lawsuit. Some exceptions could shorten or extend this filing period, so it’s in your best interest to promptly consider your legal options.
Can I Seek Damages if the Other Party Got a Ticket?
As noted, many states prohibit some forms of distracted driving, such as texting behind the wheel. If pulled over by the police, a distracted driver could face fines and other penalties based on their driving history. However, this would not prohibit you from seeking damages. In fact, if the other party got a ticket, this could serve as important evidence in your injury case.
A lawyer can use the other party’s traffic ticket (along with other information) to bolster your right to compensation. They can adhere to all applicable deadlines and otherwise fight for what you need.
What Should I Do After Suffering a Distracted Driving Accident?
Right now, medical attention should be at the forefront of your mind. Go to the emergency room or schedule an appointment with your family physician. You want to do everything in your power to make a full recovery. Additionally, the evidence you get from your healthcare team can bolster your case.
Some other post-accident considerations include:
- Refusing to give a recorded statement to the insurer
- Limiting what you share on social media about your case
- Following your treatment plan
- Documenting your injury-related losses
- Referring all settlement offers to your lawyer
Discuss Your Distracted Driving Collision With a Car Accident Law Firm
If you suffered injuries, expenses, and losses because of a distracted driver, you should discuss your next steps with a car accident law firm near you. The legal team will assess your options and explain how their attorneys help crash victims recover compensation in similar cases.
You do not have to navigate the claims process or try to hold the at-fault driver liable on your own. A personal injury attorney in Atlanta will help and work based on contingency. You do not need to pay upfront fees to have a legal team go to work on your case.
You can contact an attorney about your distracted driving crash as soon as your injuries allow. As noted, most provide free initial consultations for collision victims.