What to Do After Getting Into an Accident With a Distracted Driver?
Take the necessary steps to ensure that that the responsible party is held accountable
Distracted driving accidents are rampant. Many people do not understand that driving on the road requires your full attention. There are a host of different scenarios that can qualify distracted driving, from texting or checking emails to doing makeup or drinking coffee. If you are a victim of a distracted driving accident, you must hire a distracted driving accident attorney that can successfully establish that the distracted driver was at fault and that the accident wasn’t caused by another factor beyond the driver’s control.
The Pennsylvania car accident lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys have over six decades of experience in successful compensation of distracted driving accident cases. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident with a distracted driver, you will need qualified representation from a firm familiar with the challenges involved with a distracted driving accident. Working with the most experienced car accident lawyers guarantees that your rights will be protected.
What Are the Immediate Steps to Take When You Are Hit by a Distracted Driver?
Falling victim of a distracted driver is traumatic, overwhelming, and can be disorienting. There are several actions you can take to help navigate your distracted driving accident and protect your claim:
- Move your vehicle to safety. Should your distracted driving accident have taken place in the middle of the road, attempt to move safely to the road’s shoulder to avoid further damage or injuries.
- Call emergency personnel. Even if you feel fine, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible; some injuries do not show up immediately and people may only exhibit delayed symptoms.
- Call the police. Even if you think the property damage appears to be minimal, it’s important to contact the police to get an official record of the distracted driving accident. Take down the names and badge numbers of any police officers who report to the scene.
- Do not apologize. Regardless of whether or not you feel at fault, or if you sympathize for others’ injuries, do not apologize. This can be classified as supported evidence and, in the future, may impact your compensation.
- Gather information from involved parties. If possible, gather all the critical information from every person involved in the collision. This includes names, contact information, insurance information, and vehicle details (model, make, driver’s license number, vehicle identification number (VIN), and license plate number). Exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver. Keep all documentation you receive for your records.
- Take photos to document vehicle damage, surrounding circumstances, and injury. If possible, you should take photographs of the vehicles, any skid marks, injuries, and damaged objects.
- Take detailed notes. Make notes about what you observed in your surroundings and any details you were able to observe about the distracted driver. Were they speeding or swerving? Were their hands off the wheel?
- Speak with witnesses. If a bystander stops, ask them if they saw what happened. If they did, ask the bystander for their contact information.
- Call your insurance company. Your accident should be reported to your insurance company as soon as possible. When disclosing record of the accident, be sure NOT to give a statement. The only information that needs to be related is that an accident occurred and you will need to provide the other party’s contact and insurance information, as well.
- Call a distracted driving accident attorney. Do not make statements without consulting your attorney. Insurance companies representing drivers against whom claims have been filed will try to minimize their damages by offering insufficient settlements or simply denying the claims. The Pennsylvania car accident lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys are familiar with all of the techniques that the insurance companies may use to influence you to settle quickly and for less compensation. Insurance companies have a team of investigators, adjusters, agents, and attorneys to protect them. As the accident victim, you need your own team of legal experts on your side to protect you and assist with negotiation.
What Legal Options Are Available For a Distracted Driving Accident Victim?
If you have been injured in a car accident involving distracted driver, you have two primary legal recourses, depending on the type of insurance you may have and how injured you may be:
- You can file a claim with your insurance company
- You can file a claim against the distracted driver’s insurance company to hold them accountable for damages following the accident or you can file a personal injury claim
It is important to act swiftly to seek compensation. The statute of limitations for injury claims in Pennsylvania is two years. This means you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the distracted driver who caused your injuries. However, there are many steps to be taken before filing a lawsuit, and to determine your best course of action, so it is in your best interest to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help With My Insurance Claim?
After a distracted driving accident, you may receive a call from the at-fault party’s insurance company. Please remember, the insurance company is there to protect its interests as a business. It is not on your side. Insurance companies are not in the business of paying out large rewards for settlements; their business is to make money. If an insurance company has offered you any amount of money to “settle” your case, you need to speak with an experienced distracted driver accident attorney before you accept their offer.
Insurance companies will look for inconsistency in your dialogue; what you say on the police report statement and what you say on a phone call must be consistent. So it’s very important that you keep your comments brief and you don’t have the conversation recorded.
Stress can cause nervousness and stumbles in your dialogue. A friendly insurance agent is also looking to make sure that you are consistent with what you have disclosed — they may ask questions that put you in a place to say things in a certain way that you did not intend. That’s why it’s important to not speak with the insurance company until you hire a car accident lawyer.
Insurance companies aggressively investigate accident claims and they can pressure you or your loved ones into accepting dramatically reduced settlements. Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys will handle all of your communications with the insurance company greatly reducing the pressure and stress following the accident. You can focus on getting better and getting your life back.
Your distracted driving accident lawyer will also:
- Investigate the accident and gather witness statements, police and accident reports, and medical records
- Prepare a personal injury claim, if necessary
- File insurance claims on your behalf
- Research case law and state statutes
- File any insurance claim and will manage all communications and negotiations with insurance adjusters to protect your interests
- Prepare documents necessary for the case
- Will help prove “negligence”; a crucial part of any personal injury case.
How is Fault Determined in a Distracted Driving Car Crash?
To prove fault for a car accident, insurance companies, involved parties and their lawyers will depend on whether there is any careless conduct that causes harm to another person present in your distracted driver lawsuit case. In a car accident, a person can be negligent by doing something that they should not have done (such as texting while driving), or by failing to do something that they should have done such as stopping for a red light or brake lights or a pedestrian. Essentially, an operator of a motor vehicle has a responsibility to act in a way that avoids injuring other drivers, pedestrians or car passengers. If a driver is not acting in a responsible way and harms someone, they may be financially liable for injuries and other damages.
Proving fault can be complex; however, an experienced personal injury lawyer knows that there are reports, social media, and electronic footprints that can help establish the distracted driving behaviors of the at-fault party. Here are some of the considerations an experienced personal injury lawyer will regard to establish liability:
- Police report – A police report will reveal the officer’s observations of the crash. This document will notate if there was an impairment or evidence of distraction witnessed on their behalf. The way the vehicle was found and descriptions of injured parties or damaged objects will also be found here, and useful to be cross-referenced.
- Cell phone records – Cell phone providers are allowed to provide records that are requested by an attorney. These records can reveal the time that conversations occurred and when texts were sent.
- Driver statements – Statements made to an insurance company are to be reviewed.
- Witness statements – Bystanders who viewed the accident may help determine what the at-fault driver was doing prior to the accident taking place.
- Social media logs– Social media posts are a sure way of revealing timed entries of distracted drivers’, should they indulge in such distractions when they should be focused on driving.
- Captured pictures and videos – Use your phone to take pictures and videos of the accident scene with your phone, if you can safely and if you are physically able to. Traffic cameras and surveillance cameras may also be sources to be regarded, should they capture moments leading to your car accident.
- Event data recorders (“black box”)– Event data recorders are equipped in commercial trucks as means for their company to monitor the commercial drivers’ vehicle’s speed, rests between driving (mileage), brakes administered, and other relevant information. There are experts that explore this data; timeliness is of the essence to make certain that the integrity of the record is preserved.
- Accident reconstruction/ discovery experts – Experts conduct a forensic investigation report focuses on the reconstruction of the crash: they consider the pre-impact motion of the vehicle(s), vehicle speed, etc. and the cause of the crash.
To prove liability in a distracted driving crash, the following conditions must be met:
It is the duty of a motor vehicle operator to act in a careful manner that avoids harming others in the vehicle or on the road. If a driver fails to act in a manner that is careful and responsible thereby bringing harm to another person, this is called a “breach of duty”.
When a driver allows themselves to become distracted from the roadway they have breached their duty and responsibility to other people on the road. If the defendant’s behavior falls short of how a reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances, the defendant has violated the duty of reasonable care.
Examples of behavior expected of a “reasonable” driver can include: stopping at a red light, watching for crossing pedestrians, and following the vehicle in front of them at a safe distance. When a driver allows themselves to become distracted by cell phone use (or other actions not related to driving in a responsible manner) they have legally breached their duty.
The injured party must demonstrate that the distracted driver’s breach of their duty caused the accident victim’s injuries or damage. This can be done by receiving medical attention as soon as possible. Medical records will show how your injuries were caused.
If you lost something after the accident, you will be entitled to compensation. Damages refers to either economic or non-economic losses. This includes medical expenses, lost wages, emotional distress/mental anguish; pain and suffering; lost or diminished earning capacity; permanent damages; disabilities; and psychological or psychiatric harm.
What Are the Distracted Driving Laws in Pennsylvania?
Distracted driving is one of the most common reasons for traffic injuries and fatalities. During 2020, the National Traffic Safety Highway Administration (NTSHA) reported 3,142 people (drivers, pedestrians, passengers, and bicyclists) died due to distracted driving accidents. A significant amount of the distraction on the roads is attributed to texting while driving.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation highlights the laws restricting cell phone texting while driving: The law prohibits as a primary offense any driver from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device (IWCD) to send, read or write a text-based communication while the vehicle is in motion. If guilty, the driver will received a 50 fine plus court costs and other fees.
Why Choose Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys?
There are many personal injury law firms out there but they are not all created equal. When choosing a personal injury attorney for your case, some questions to ask include: How long has this lawyer been practicing? What size settlements and verdicts have they won recently? Do they have trial experience? What will they be like to work with – will my case get the attention it needs? What is their reputation in the legal community?
At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, our partners each have decades of experience in personal injury law – including experience trying cases in front of a jury. While many injury lawyers have never been to trial, we have brought numerous cases to verdict and are always prepared to take your case to trial if the defendant won’t agree to an appropriate settlement. We have won dozens of multimillion-dollar results for our clients. Furthermore, we invest the resources necessary to build a winning case. That means we work with world-class investigators, experts, medical professionals, technologists, and more. We invest in you.
If you were injured in a distracted driving accident, we’re here to help. Contact Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys today for a free consultation.
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Posted in Car Accidents.