Proving a driver caused an accident because of a distraction can be difficult. But, it is important to try and prove it occurred when possible. Distracted driving is a serious problem throughout the United States and the world and highlighting and exposing it when it does occur helps to raise awareness as to the dangers inherent in it.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
What Is Distracted Driving? Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.
Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed…
Consequences… In 2017 alone, 3,166 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
There are many reasons it might be tough to prove a driver was distracted in causing a crash. A couple of those reasons are: first, an injured person may not have realized that the driver who hit them was distracted and may not have known to investigate that possibility nor to alert the police to that fact. Car crashes are a traumatic event and crash scenes are often chaotic. Second, even if an injured person is aware that the driver who hit them was driving distracted, generally, the driver can easily deny it. So, how might an injured person prove it?
- Admissions. Many times out of shock or sincere concern for the accident, a driver will admit that he or she was distracted either by a phone or otherwise. Anything the driver says can be used as evidence of fault.
- Police reports. A police report is sometimes filed after police officers investigate an accident. A police report, where available, might document the cause of the crash or provide tangible evidence of the other driver's admission.
- Witnesses. Witnesses to the accident (before, during, or after) could provide evidence which could help prove distraction. Anyone who saw the other driver—even prior to the crash occurring—may be able to provide critical details. Maybe he or she saw the other driver using a cell phone, looking back at children, or otherwise.
- Cell phone logs. In some cases where cell phone use is suspected, an attorney might be able to obtain the other driver's text message or call logs. This could help identify the timing of texts or phone calls and possibly provide evidence that the other driver was using his or her phone while driving, for example.
- Photos or videos. If a witness took a photo or video or if any surveillance cameras were in the vicinity and recording, an attorney may be able to obtain that evidence to try and identify what the other driver was doing immediately prior to the accident.
- Accident reconstruction. In some instances, drawing upon the evidence available, there are experts who can opine as to how the accident likely occurred. They can point to specific causes, like potentially distracted driving, depending on the circumstances.
Proving distracted driving can be important because in personal injury cases the injured person has the burden to prove the various elements of the claim—one of which is that the other person was at fault (if not that the other driver was driving distracted, an injured person must prove—at least—that the other driver was negligent in some way). The injured person must prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” (or “more probably than not”) that the other driver caused the crash which caused the injured person's injuries.
If you have questions or concerns specific to your potential claims possibly arising out of a distracted driving incident, give us a call and our attorneys would be happy to discuss that with you free of charge.