Texting and driving is distracted driving and is illegal. While there are a number of states and jurisdictions that do not forbid hands-free cell phone use, there are 39 states along with the District of Columbia that outlaw text messaging while driving. Texting is another matter from talking on your cell phone since it requires the user to devote full attention away from the act of driving. If someone hits your car or strikes you as a pedestrian while that person was driving and texting, that individual has violated the law and you can sue them for property and personal injury damages.
If you were injured in such an accident, contact a texting accident attorney to handle your claim. Cell phone records will need to requested or subpoenaed that can evidence what the driver was doing in the seconds before the accident.
Texting and Driving as DUI?
Obviously, texting while operating a motor vehicle is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, though many would consider it just as dangerous. Drinking or taking a drug, illegal or prescription, that impairs your coordination and judgment is a misdemeanor in most cases unless you have multiple convictions or you seriously injured or killed someone in an accident. Likewise, texting can be addictive and is also a deliberate act that the driver knows, or should know, is dangerous since your eyes and attention are not focused on driving. A car travelling at 55 miles per hour can travel 100 yards in just 5 seconds, plenty of time to not see a pedestrian or notice a stopped or slow-moving vehicle or a red traffic light in front of you. In fact, studies show that 5 seconds is the minimal time most people take to text a message. Other studies indicate that you are 23 times more likely to be in an accident if you are texting while driving.
The National Safety Council reports that one in every 4 car accidents has texting as a causative factor. Compared to drunk driving, you are 6 times more likely to have an accident if texting than if otherwise impaired.
Are Punitive Damages Available?
Texting drivers who cause injury accidents may not lose their driver’s license if ticketed and found guilty as in a DUI conviction, but you can certainly sue them for lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering. But can you sue them for punitive damages? Many states allow punitive damage causes of action in drunk driving cases but so far, Florida may be the only state where a court has allowed it. To bring a claim for exemplary or punitive damages in California, you must show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant exhibited conduct that consciously disregarded the safety of others or which was willfully indifferent. To meet this standard, you may have to show that the person texting did more than just take their eyes off the road for a few seconds. If you can show that the driver did so for an extended period of time, hit several pedestrians or cars or caused a fatal accident, then perhaps the standard may be met. More and more personal injury attorneys are pressing the courts to allow the trier of fact to allege punitive damages in texting and driving cases and it is likely more courts will allow a jury to consider it.
Consult a personal injury accident attorney who specializes in vehicle accidents
With intoxicated driving, the responsible person could at least point out that alcoholism is a disease. Texting and driving is not a disease but is behavior that everyone is aware is dangerous and can lead to catastrophic results. if texting was a factor in your injury accident, contact Ritholz Law.