Distracted drivers take thousands of lives every year. In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported at least 3,450 deaths involving distracted driving throughout the U.S. Despite a duty to drive prudently and pay attention to the road, hundreds of drivers in New York City drive distracted every day. If a distracted driver injured you or killed a loved one, speak to a New York City personal injury attorney at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C. The at-fault driver could owe you compensation for damages.
Distracted driving is an act of negligence. It is a direct breach of a driver’s duty to reasonably prevent harm to others on the roadway. Unfortunately, New York’s no-fault car insurance laws can make it difficult for victims of distracted driving to obtain fair recovery. Hiring a lawyer, however, can greatly improve the odds.
A lawyer knows how to negotiate no-fault insurance claims, as well as how to file a personal injury lawsuit if your injuries meet the threshold as “serious” in the eyes of the law. You can relax and focus on healing while your lawyer negotiates the best possible compensation for your damages.
Distracted driving generally falls into three categories:
Distractions that cause drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel for any reason, and for any amount of time. Without both hands on the wheel, reaction time suffers, as well as the ability to steer.
Distractions that take a driver’s eyes off of the road. This is the type of interference that most people associate with distracted driving. Taking your eyes off the road, even for a split second, is extremely dangerous.
Distractions that take the minds of drivers off of the task of driving. Even though a driver’s hands may be on the wheel and their eyes on the road, the mind can drift, taking them away from the task at hand. A 2018 study conducted by Erie Insurance reported that daydreaming is the number-one distraction for drivers.
There are hundreds of possible distractions, and some may fall under multiple categories. Texting while driving, for instance, is especially dangerous because it involves all three types of distraction.
Distracted driving is one of the deadliest driver mistakes on the road. Driving without both eyes on the road, both hands on the wheel, and the mind present on the driving task can compromise a driver’s abilities to safely control and handle a motor vehicle. A distracted driver may not notice a crossing pedestrian or changing traffic signal or be able to react in time to prevent a collision with other vehicles, objects, or pedestrians. Following are some of the most common causes of distracted driving.
The use of a handheld cellphone or other electronic device in any capacity while driving in New York is against the law. Breaking this law can result in fines of up to $150 for a first offense. If someone causes a crash while using a handheld device, that person could be financially responsible for damages. It is up to crash victims to protect their rights and to pursue fair compensation with help from an attorney.
In New York, auto policies contain “no-fault” benefits, which most often confuses people because of its name. No-Fault benefits generally cover medical expenses, reasonable out of pocket expenses and lost earnings that an individual incurs as a result of a car accident. This means that if you were operating a vehicle and were injured in a car accident, you can file a claim with your own auto insurance, regardless of who is at fault for the accident to have these items covered. If you were a pedestrian or out of a vehicle, you must file a no-fault claim with the vehicle that struck you.
In most cases, the benefits are limited to $50,000, but it depends on your policy and the selections you make regarding this benefit. There are times when additional benefits are available. There are certain rules that must be followed when making these claims and having an attorney to guide you is also best. An attorney can ensure that the claim is timely filed, in addition to any lawsuit you may have and can also help keep track of mandatory no-fault exams you will be required to attend.
Under New York law, a victim can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer if they have sustained an injury that meets the state’s threshold for “serious injury”. The types of injuries in this category are defined in Section 5102(d) of the New York State Insurance Law, as the following:
If you have sustained such an injury, you have the ability to recover compensation for pain, suffering, medical expenses, mental anguish, lost income, disability, and more.
To hold a distracted driver liable for damages, car accident victims (or their attorneys) must prove another driver breached a duty of care, and this breach caused the crash. In order to do so, proof of distracted driving will need to be obtained and could involve a variety of detailed evidence:
Photographs from the entire accident scene, including the damage to the vehicles or property involved, can sometimes indicate distracted driving. Lack of brake marks on the ground, for example, could help prove that something was distracting the driver’s attention prior to the collision.
The driver’s cell phone records can provide evidence that a driver, at the time of the accident:
Procuring cell phone records can be difficult. Choosing the right lawyer to handle this task for you is vital.
An attorney may be able to obtain recordings from traffic cameras close to the accident scene. This can enable you to see if the driver was engaging in a distracted driving behavior, such as:
Testimony from eyewitnesses can be essential to a successful claim. One of the initial questions from an insurance adjuster will be, “were there any witnesses besides the drivers?” Since witnesses are considered neutral third parties, with no financial stake in the outcome, their testimony as to how a collision occurred can be extremely helpful if it confirms your account of the accident.
Statements from subject-matter experts can also play an important role in car accident claims, even when a case does not make it to court. They have the ability to provide credible opinions regarding fault, that gives you leverage during negotiations with the insurance company.
It is rare for a driver to admit they were distracted at the time of a collision, as violating distracted driving laws in New York can lead to serious consequences. Hiring a law firm with the resources to diligently investigate your crash and collect evidence can help strengthen your case.
Many states have implemented a ban on texting while driving. However, New York’s laws are more stringent:
Using a handheld mobile phone while driving is only acceptable when calling 9-1-1. Violating any of the above statutes can subject a driver to fines, as well as points on their driving record. The first violation can carry a fine of up to $200 and adds five points to your record. If a driver receives 11 points over a 18-month period, their license will be suspended.
Our lawyers have seen first-hand how catastrophic a distracted driving accident can be for victims. They have seen everything from multiple fracture/surgical cases, to traumatic brain injuries, disfiguring lacerations, bad burns as a result of fuel fed car fires, to death as a result of motor vehicle accidents. If you believe a distracted driver may be liable for your crash-related damages, contact the New York City attorneys at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C. We have the resources to develop the evidence needed to prove your claim and can start with a free consultation at our local law office, over the phone, or at your home or at the hospital if that is where you are confined due to your injuries.