How Distracted Driving Affects Compensation in Car Accident Cases

Have you been hurt in a Chicago distracted driving wreck? If so, you may be eligible for compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and more, which you can pursue by filing a claim with the distracted driver’s liability insurance. Let’s explore driver distraction in detail: what it is, why it’s dangerous, and how it affects compensation in car accident cases.

How Common is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of preventable car accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency found that nine percent of fatal crashes, 15 percent of injury crashes, and 15 percent of all police-reported crashes in a single recent year were the result of distracted driving. All told, these crashes led to 424,000 injuries and over 3,140 deaths.

Technology’s role in distracted driving accidents can’t be overstated. It’s no coincidence the rise in distracted driving crashes mirrors the rise in smartphone ownership. Worryingly, the National Safety Council (NSC) reports that the use of handheld electronic devices by drivers has increased by almost 130 percent over the last decade.

Our digital devices simplify our lives in many ways. Unfortunately, they can also cause crashes. That’s why many of the most effective safety measures against distracted driving involve putting the phone away.

However, phones may not solely be to blame. NSC data indicates that distracted driving crashes that don’t involve cell phone use have also been on the rise.

Other technologies may also contribute to the trend. For instance, GPS systems can theoretically help guard against crashes by helping motorists navigate unfamiliar areas. That said, they can also be a distraction, as drivers may be less likely to pay attention to the road if they’re paying attention to GPS directions or inputting coordinates.

Preventing Distracted Driving Accidents: Tips to Keep in Mind

You can do your part to stay alert and attentive behind the wheel by keeping the following tips in mind: 

  • Turning your phone off while driving. If this isn’t an option, download an app that prevents your digital devices from sending you notifications on the road. You’ll be less tempted to check these devices if you’re not receiving notifications.
  • Don’t drive while fatigued. Driving while tired can have many of the same effects as driving drunk, decreasing coordination, judgment, and even concentration. You may be more prone to distraction if you attempt to drive without getting proper rest.
  • Don’t eat while driving. For many of us, grabbing a bite behind the wheel to save time has become so common a routine as to seem harmless. But juggling a donut and a coffee makes it all but impossible to maintain control of the wheel at the same time, which can have devastating consequences should a hazard suddenly appear in the roadway. Don’t chance it – plan ahead by budgeting time to eat before or after you hit the road.

Most importantly, always remember you have the option to pull over and park. This is true whether you need to check your phone or calm an unruly child. You don’t have to tend to a distraction while operating your vehicle. You can park and address the matter safely before resuming driving.

Illinois Distracted Driving Laws

Distracted driving isn’t just a safety hazard – it can also be against the law. The use of handheld electronic communication devices while at the wheel is illegal in most situations in Illinois. A first violation of this law carries a $75 fine. A second violation costs $100, while a third costs $125. Each subsequent violation elicits a $150 fine. Depending on the circumstances, there may also be financial effects of distracted driving on insurance premiums. These are just a few of the legal consequences for distracted driving, as we’ll explore in greater detail in a moment.

The Impact of Distracted Driving on Car Accident Cases

If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you can file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver seeking compensation for the harm you suffered as a result. However, the insurance company won’t accept your claim unless it is convinced that their policyholder did indeed cause the accident, making them liable for its costs. Doing so may require evidence of the policyholder’s distraction, which could include:

  • Eyewitness statements
  • Traffic or security camera footage
  • Physical evidence, such as a lack of skidmarks suggesting they didn’t think to apply the brakes

In most car accident cases, establishing liability involves proving negligence: that a driver owed the victim a duty of care, that they violated the duty of care, that the victim suffered injuries, and that those injuries resulted from the violation of that duty of care. However, if you can show that the driver violated Illinois’s law banning the use of handheld devices while driving, you can hold them liable under the legal doctrine of negligence per se, which holds that a defendant who violates a safety law is automatically negligent. Evidence like phone and data records and social media feeds can be especially useful in this regard.

Many who engage in distracted driving are violating traffic safety laws when doing so. Proving negligence may be easier if you can show a driver caused a collision while using a phone or otherwise breaking the law.

Distracted Driving and Accident Liability: What You Need to Know About the Illinois Comparative Negligence Statute

a distracted person holding a phone while driving

You may not have been the driver who was primarily responsible for the wreck. But what if your own distraction contributed to the crash in some way? An insurer or defendant might argue your injuries would have been less severe had you not been distracted.

Such arguments can affect how much compensation you may receive. Under Illinois law, a person can recover compensation for injuries if they aren’t more than 50 percent to blame for them. However, the percentage of blame they share will influence how much compensation they’re eligible to collect.

For example, maybe you would have been eligible to receive $100,000. Because you were distracted, you are deemed 20 percent to blame for your injuries. If so, the most you could receive would be $80,000.

Don’t risk having this happen to you. Instead, get in touch with an experienced lawyer who knows how to push back against these hardball tactics.

Contact a Chicago Car Accident Lawyer

At JJ Legal, we offer legal advice for distracted driving cases. Meet our team if you’ve been hurt in such a crash. A Chicago car accident lawyer can answer your questions about pursuing compensation. Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at 312-200-2000 for a free case review.

Related Reading: