ON TEXTING AND DRIVING
Nov. 30, 2020
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and its latest statistics, distracted driving — which often involves talking or texting on a cellphone — claimed 2,841 lives in 2018. Among those killed were 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians, and 77 bicyclists.
If you’re an accident victim and suspect the other driver was texting or otherwise distracted while the accident occurred, you may want to know and exercise your rights in pursuing your claim.
If you’re in or around Shrewsbury, Southborough, or Webster, Massachusetts, contact the Law Office of James A. Maniatis. I am a personal injury attorney who has helped clients with cases just like yours since 1988. I will investigate and help you obtain an equitable settlement.
THE DANGERS OF DISTRACTED DRIVING
In addition to talking or texting, NHTSA includes eating and drinking, talking to other people in the vehicle, and fiddling with the stereo, entertainment, or navigation system as examples of distracted driving.
NHTSA also frighteningly notes that a vehicle traveling at 55 miles per hour whose driver is distracted for a mere five seconds will, in that time, travel the distance of a football field.
That’s the equivalent of driving with your eyes shut for 100 or more yards, plenty of distance to unwittingly hit another vehicle, object, or pedestrian.
HANDS-FREE DRIVING LAW
In early 2020, Massachusetts enacted its Hands-Free Law, expanding on the Safe Driving Law of 2010, which banned texting while driving.
The new statute prohibits operators of vehicles from using any electronic device, including cell phones unless the device is used in a hands-free mode for voice or GPS only. The law applies to drivers 18 years or older. Drivers under 18 cannot touch or use a mobile device in any way, hands-free or not.
The law mandates that electronic devices must be mounted on the windshield, dashboard, or center console and can only be touched to turn on hands-free mode. The devices can never be held while the vehicle is in operation, i.e., only when stationary and not located in a public travel or bicycle lane. Hand-held is not allowed at stop signs or red lights.
The devices can be used only for GPS and hands-free voice communication via a headphone in one ear only. Texting, emailing, video watching, and Internet usage are all prohibited.
Fines range from $100 to $500 and can include mandatory training and even an insurance surcharge. Massachusetts is a primary enforcement state, meaning you can be pulled over and cited for distracted driving even if you’re obeying every other traffic and safety law.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT
THE OTHER DRIVER WAS TEXTING
Evidence of texting while driving can help show negligence or recklessness in a personal injury claim. If the texting driver chooses to sue someone else over the accident, that can rebound negatively and lead to evidence of comparative or contributory negligence, preventing the texting driver from obtaining compensation.
As with any vehicular accident, you must start by following standard procedures, which include seeking medical help if needed, contacting the police to investigate or filing a police report, and filing a claim with your insurance company.
Proving the other driver was texting or otherwise breaking the Hands-Free Law to bolster your claim can prove challenging in itself. If the police investigate, their report may indicate a violation. Perhaps there was no mounting bracket for the cellphone in the vehicle, suggesting handheld use.
Alternatively, the driver may also own up to texting, though that might be a rare admission. Otherwise, you’ll need witness or passenger testimony, or perhaps a subpoenaed phone record indicating use during the time of the accident. Maybe your passenger took a photo or video during the accident showing the act of texting. In other words, showing proof can be tricky.
WORK WITH AN EXPERIENCED
PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY
As in any vehicular accident claim, the insurance companies are going to seek the easy way out — which saves them both time and money. You should obtain the services of an experienced personal injury attorney if the accident is more than a minor fender bender.
Don’t try to negotiate with the insurance representatives yourself, and don’t sell yourself and your needs short. If you’ve been injured, you’re entitled to compensation for:
Reduced earning capacity
Reduced work-life expectancy
Diminished quality of life
pain & suffering
In addition to helping you pursue your claim with the insurers, an experienced attorney can advise you if further legal action such as a personal injury lawsuit may be needed.
Remember, there is a three-year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit, so contact the Law Office of James Maniatis today to schedule a free case evaluation. I have offices in Shrewsbury, Southborough, and Webster, Massachusetts, and I also serve the surrounding areas of Westborough, Northborough, Grafton, Boylston, Millbury, Upton, Dudley, Southbridge, Oxford, and communities throughout Massachusetts.