Posted on:Jun 23, 2020

Distracted Driving: Impact on Auto Accident Claims and Implication for Punitive Damages

HomeBlogDistracted Driving: Impact on Auto Accident Claims and Implication for Punitive Damages

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving was the cause of over 2,800 deaths in 2018.  Of the individuals killed in 2018 as a result of distracted driving, over two hundred were teenagers.  Despite clear statistical studies establishing that texting while driving significantly increases the likelihood of experiencing a crash, drivers continue to utilize cell phones with blatant disregard for the associated risks.  An analysis of the effects of texting on driving published in 2011 in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention found that typing “I’m on my way home” took approximately thirty-seven seconds to complete during which time the driver’s eyes were averted from the roadway for an alarming twenty-six seconds (with, on average, seventeen glances at the phone during such time frame).  Another meta-analysis of the effects of texting while driving published in 2014, which compiled data from twenty-eight published studies, clearly found that drivers engaged in texting while driving are an active safety threat to other drivers. 

Because the effects of texting while driving are clear and established, a driver that causes an accident while texting may face heightened consequences for his or her actions – both civil and criminal.  State legislatures have passed laws around the country enhancing criminal penalties for texting while driving, and in the civil context drivers can find themselves facing punitive damages claims exposing their personal assets to resulting judgments.  At this point, no driver can reasonably claim that they were unaware that texting while driving increased the risk that they would cause an accident.

During the course of litigation, a skilled and competent personal injury attorney will seek information about an at-fault driver’s use of a cellular device at the time of an accident, and use such information to show that the driver had engaged in the type of willful behavior and conscious indifference to the resulting consequences that can lead to punitive damages claims.  While the laws vary from state to state, the overall effect of texting while driving on civil claims remains clear.  Injured parties are often compensated at a higher rate in circumstances in which punitive damages are appropriate. 

The scientific dangers of the effects of texting while driving and established and unarguable, and drivers that choose to text while driving cannot use ignorance as a shield from the resulting criminal and civil implications of their actions. 

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