According to the most-recent data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, distracted driving is to blame for tens of thousands of accidents in the state every year. In fact, while accidents resulting from distracted driving actually decreased on a near-annual basis from 2000 to 2014, accident rates have shot up in recent years; and, in 2015, approximately one in five auto accidents in Wisconsin involved a distracted or inattentive driver.
Despite the fact that it is illegal to text while driving in Wisconsin, texting and other forms of handheld cell phone use remain primary culprits in distracted driving accidents. Studies have shown that texting and other driving distractions can cause levels of impairment similar to alcohol intoxication; and, in the time it takes to read an average text message, a vehicle traveling at highway speeds can drive the length of an entire football stadium.
Are You Entitled to Financial Compensation for Distracted Driving?
Due to the well-known dangers of distracted driving, drivers who cause accidents while distracted will typically be liable for the financial and non-financial costs of their mistakes. If you were injured in an auto accident and you suspect that distracted driving may have been a factor, here are some key facts about your claim for compensation:
1. A Texting Ticket is Not Evidence of Liability
While texting behind the wheel is illegal in Wisconsin, the fact that the other driver received a texting ticket does not necessarily mean that he or she is liable for your injuries. One reason for this is that a ticket is simply a summons to appear in court – it is an accusation, not a conviction. But, even if the other driver is convicted, his or her conviction still may not be admissible as evidence of liability in your case.
Why? Although distracted driving is a common factor in auto accidents, the fact that a driver was distracted does not necessarily mean that he or she was at fault in the accident. In order to recover compensation, you need to be able to show not only that the other driver was texting at the time of the accident, but also that the accident was a result of his or her texting behind the wheel.
2. There are Many Types of Driving Distractions
Texting is an all-too-common form of distracted driving. But, it is not the only type of distraction that can support a claim for liability. There are numerous other common driving distractions as well, including:
- Talking on the phone (handheld or hands-free)
- Talking to passengers
- Adjusting the radio or a music playlist
- Setting GPS directions or navigating
- Using in-vehicle infotainment systems
- Eating or drinking
- Personal grooming
- Reaching for objects in the vehicle cabin
- Looking at objects or occurrences outside of the vehicle (i.e. “rubbernecking”)
While distracted driving awareness campaigns tend to focus on teen drivers, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that adult drivers are responsible for a significant portion of distraction-related serious and fatal accidents. Adults routinely give in to other distractions as well, and it is important not to rule out any potential cause of an accident until you obtain the results of a thorough investigation.
3. There are Many Ways to Prove that a Driver was Distracted
Regardless of the specific issue (or issues) involved in your accident, you will need to be able to piece together sufficient evidence to prove that the other driver was distracted at the time of the accident. Fortunately, while the circumstances of each case are unique, there will often be a number of sources of evidence available. Potential sources of evidence of distracted driving include:
- Driver admission to the police or during a deposition
- Testimony from passengers or witnesses
- Cell phone records
- Social media posts
- “Black box” information from the other vehicle’s infotainment system
- Skid marks and other physical evidence of excessive speed, following too closely, or erratic driving immediately preceding the crash
- Fast food containers, spilled drinks, cigarette burns, and other evidence indicating that the other driver was distracted
- Traffic camera or surveillance video footage
In addition to presenting evidence of fault, in order to secure just compensation you will also need evidence of the cause and extent of your injuries. As a result, it is important to seek medical attention immediately, and you should consult with an attorney promptly to ensure that you take all of the steps necessary to maximize your financial recovery.
4. The Risks Associated with Distracted Driving are Severe
When seeking medical attention after an auto accident, it is important to make sure your doctor is aware that your injuries are accident-related. This will help ensure that your doctor conducts a comprehensive physician examination and orders the scans and tests necessary to determine the full scope and extent of your injuries. Since distractions often prevent drivers from braking in time to limit the impact forces involved in a collision, it is not unusual for distracted driving accidents to result in bone fractures, neck and back injuries, internal organ damage, and other serious injuries.
5. Your Case Will Most Likely Involve a Claim Against the Distracted Driver’s Insurance Company
Finally, even though distracted driving is careless and reckless, it is still covered under auto insurance bodily injury liability (BIL) policies. As a result, if your accident was the result of distracted driving, your case will most likely involve a claim against the distracted driver’s insurance company. While this increases the chances that you will be able to recover the money you need to provide just compensation for your injuries, it also means that you will need to work with an experienced attorney who can help you avoid settling for less than you deserve.
Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.
Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.
Schedule a Free Auto Accident Consultation in Wausau, WI
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in an auto accident in the Wausau, WI area, determining the cause of the accident will be one of the first steps on your road to recovery. To find out if you may be entitled to financial compensation for distracted driving, please call (715) 842-2291 or request a free consultation online today.