Distractions on the road are one of the nation’s leading causes of accidents. Being hit by a distracted driver might leave you badly injured, and a lawyer can help you get compensation.
With the proliferation of cell phones, texting and driving has become a serious problem. So many accidents every year result from a text message that could have waited until later. While texting is a big concern, other common distractions include GPS devices, passengers, eating, or just admiring the scenery. Distracted driving cases are often serious because drivers make no effort to stop because they are not paying attention. As such, damages might be worth more because injuries and damages are greater. A lawyer can help you evaluate your damages while dealing with insurance adjusters.
If a distracted driver hits you, contact our Maryland car accident lawyer by calling Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 and arrange a free review of your case.
Texting and Driving Accidents in Maryland
Our society has come to value multi-tasking, and new technology has given us a seemingly endless number of things we can do—all at the same time. But multi-tasking while behind the wheel of a car can be deadly. Any distraction—any activity that diverts attention from the road, even for a few seconds―can cause an auto accident.
Texting while driving is a growing problem. Texting increases the likelihood of a crash by a shocking 23 times! But even talking on a cell phone—including a hands-free device—raises the risk of being in an accident to a level comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit. Many drivers who wouldn’t consider getting behind the wheel while intoxicated barely give a thought to conducting business over the phone or sending or reading a text message while they are driving.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2014, the most recent year that figures are available, approximately 2,338,000 people were injured in traffic crashes. Of those, the number of people injured in crashes involving driver distraction was around 431,000, or 18 percent of the total number injured. Of those, approximately 33,000 of the injuries occurred in crashes in which cell phone use of some kind—whether talking or texting was involved. The National Safety Council reports even higher numbers. According to them, texting is the cause of 28 percent of motor vehicle accidents.
Distracted Driving Concerns in Maryland
Recent research shows that the problem of distracted driving is a top concern for Maryland drivers—greater than concern over drunk, drugged, or aggressive driving. But as concerned as Maryland drivers are about distracted driving, their concern doesn’t seem to prevent many of them from doing it themselves.
Here are some statistics that show our state has a serious distracted driving problem:
- More than 53,000 distracted driving crashes occur in Maryland every year. That’s 58 percent of the total crashes in the state, exceeding nationwide estimates!
- 28,874 people are injured, and 232 people are killed every year in a crash caused by a distracted driver in Maryland.
- Crashes caused by distracted drivers made up 46 percent of the total number of fatal crashes in Maryland.
- Close to 84 percent of distracted driving crashes occurred in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas.
Common Driver Distractions
Below are listed some of the most common causes of driver distraction in Maryland:
- Texting (including voice to text)
- Talking on a cell phone, with hands-free use not significantly different from hand-held
- Getting directions online
- Engaging with other passengers
- Reading written directions
- Reading a newspaper
- Looking at a screen on the car’s console
- Setting the GPS
- Operating car windows and other controls
- Smoking; lighting cigarettes
- Changing radio station
- Reading billboards
- Admiring the scenery
- Personal grooming—hairstyling, applying make-up, etc.
- Children and pets
- Picking up dropped items
Types of Distractions
Three main types of distractions may affect drivers:
- Manual distractions are those where you move your hands away from controlling the vehicle. Changing the station on the radio or picking up an object from the floor of the car are examples of manual distraction.
- Visual distractions cause you to look away from the road. Turning around to check on your kids in the back seat is a visual distraction.
- A cognitive distraction is when you are thinking about something other than your driving. Thinking about what you’ll cook for dinner, how you’ll handle the job interview, what you need to do to prepare for an exam are cognitive distractions.
Texting is especially dangerous because it involves all three types of distraction. Sending or reading a text message typically causes a driver’s attention to be removed from the road for five seconds. In that time, assuming driving at a speed of 55 miles per hour, a car will travel the distance of the length of a football field. That’s a long way for a car to move without a driver’s focus, and it is easy to see how crashes occur.
Can Distracted Driving Increase Compensation After a Maryland Car Accident?
Distracted driving is an unfortunately common cause of car accidents. Courts and law enforcement are not often sympathetic to defendants in these cases because distractions can be easily eliminated if the defendant chooses to do so. In some cases, the fact that the defendant was driving while distracted might be used to increase your damages and potential compensation.
Effect on Damages
Compensatory damages are broadly categorized as economic and non-economic. Economic damages are related to the monetary costs of an accident. Non-economic damages are rooted in more subjective, painful experiences that might not be directly tied to a sum of money. The presence of distracted driving might increase these damages under certain circumstances.
Economic damages are often rooted in things like medical bills, property damage, and the income you lose from missing work. While these factors are not necessarily increased simply because the driver was distracted, there might be a correlation.
Distracted drivers may be more likely to cause severe accidents because they are not paying attention and do not brake or try to swerve away to avoid a crash. They often strike other drivers or pedestrians head-on at full speed. As such, these kinds of accidents are sometimes very serious. Generally, the more serious a collision, the greater the injuries and damage, and the higher the economic damages.
Non-economic damage may include physical pain, emotional distress, humiliation, and other subjective yet painful experiences. Many victims of distracted driving accidents report feeling distressed and disturbed over the defendant’s actions. The fact that they suffer such severe injuries just because the defendant wanted to send a text message while driving can be enough to affect some people psychologically or emotionally. As such, our Maryland car accident lawyers can help you argue for greater non-economic damages.
Finally, the fact that the defendant was distracted when they caused the accident does not make the defendant look good, and the jury might be far less sympathetic and more likely to find them liable. As such, the defendant might want to avoid a trial and work out a settlement. You can use evidence of their distracted driving as leverage to increase the value of a potential settlement.
Evidence of Distracted Driving
Another way that distracted driving might help you obtain more damages is that it might leave more substantial evidence. You cannot recover damage without evidence. Depending on how the defendant was distracted, we might obtain powerful evidence of their negligence, securing you the compensation you deserve.
Some of the most common distractions are cell phones. Luckily, phones leave lengthy and detailed paper trails. We can obtain copies of the defendant’s phone records to determine if they were making calls or texting when the crash happened. These records might indicate that the defendant sent multiple text messages mere moments before the crash. This kind of evidence can be very damning and hard to refute.
While the fact that the defendant was distracted might not automatically increase the value of your damages, it might provide us with evidence we can use to get you compensation. With evidence like phone records, you have a stronger case and stand a better chance of recovering damages.
Possibility of Punitive Damages
Punitive damages, if available, may significantly drive up the overall value of your compensation. These damages are not awarded to compensate plaintiffs for losses but to punish defendants for bad behavior. As such, an award of punitive damages is a bonus for injured plaintiffs. While punitive damages might be available in a distracted driving case, it is unlikely, and you might not see any significant increase in damages.
Punitive damages are very rare in Maryland, especially in cases based on negligence. Ever since the case of Owens-Illinois v. Zenobia in 1992, Maryland courts typically do not award punitive damages unless plaintiffs can show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with actual malice.
Actual malice is often held to include spite, hatred, and an intent to cause harm. As such, punitive damages in Maryland are most often awarded in cases where defendants purposefully caused injuries to plaintiffs.
If the driver in your case was distracted, they likely caused the accident unintentionally, and there is likely no way to prove actual malice. As such, distracted driving probably would not allow you to increase your overall damages by claiming punitive damages.
Getting the Help You Need Following a Distracted Driving Accident
When you’ve been seriously injured in a Maryland motor vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, or if a close family member has died because of another driver’s distraction on the road, you may be able to recover money from that driver as compensation for your damages that resulted from the crash. It is important to retain an experienced accident attorney in Baltimore if you hope to obtain a significant settlement or verdict, one that is sufficient to cover all of your economic and non-economic damages. In the Baltimore area, you can get the experienced legal help you need by contacting Rice, Murtha & Psoras.
When you retain Rice law firm to represent you, we will thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the accident, gather evidence to prove that the distracted driver was responsible for the accident and your injuries, and, when necessary, bring on board accident reconstruction experts and traffic safety engineers to help support your claim. We will obtain your medical and employment records, along with pertinent bills and receipts, to demonstrate the financial losses you’ve suffered and prove your injuries’ seriousness. We will document your pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of your quality of life. We will carefully and meticulously build a persuasive case to recover compensation for your economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Medical costs
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Lost earnings and diminished earning potential
- The cost of medical devices
- The cost of household help
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
An Important Word of Advice: Do Not Engage with the Insurance Adjuster!
Whenever you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver, you can expect a call from that driver’s insurance company’s adjuster. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a discussion of the accident. That is your lawyer’s job. Engaging with an insurance adjuster is usually detrimental to your case.
Insurance companies pay adjusters to find ways to minimize the amount of money they pay out on claims, and they know how to twist things around to their advantage. They may even suggest that you don’t need a lawyer. Remember, insurance companies are in business to generate profits, not to help accident victims! The less they pay, the higher their profits, so leave all negotiations to your attorney. and never sign anything unless your lawyer tells you to do so.
Seek a Distracted Driving Accident Attorney – Getting the Help You Need!
If you or a member of your family suffered injuries attributable to a distracted driver, your best bet is to call the Baltimore car accident lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras to arrange a time for a free case review.