Florida’s laws banning texting and driving are relatively new, and have been scorned for not being tough enough. That may be true as far as criminal penalties, but when it comes to asserting a claim for injuries in civil court, anything that distracts drivers can lead to significant liability when there’s an accident, and that’s been the law for a very long time.
The Verdict for Texting While Driving
The right to recover damages in civil court for text-related car accidents was reinforced recently when a Florida woman injured in an accident was awarded $4.3 million for permanent disabilities suffered at the hands of a driver who was texting while driving.
Except in this case, the victim was a passenger, and the driver who was texting was her own boyfriend, in her own vehicle. The boyfriend, distracted by the texting, ran a stop sign and collided with a tractor trailer.
(As an aside to the texting issues, the case also reiterates that if you are a passenger in a vehicle and are injured by a negligent driver, there is still a claim against the driver. Many victims are reluctant to sue same-car drivers, who are often driving with friends or family, but putting aside that personal issue, drivers in the same car you are as responsible for your safety as drivers of other vehicles).
The Sad Texting Statistics
Studies show that a quarter of all motor vehicle crashes are due to texting, which amounts to 1.6 million a year.
Despite the statistics and the passage of the new law, enforcement has been minimal. Only 352 citations have been given in Miami for texting while driving violations, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. This is largely because it is a secondary offense, meaning a driver can only be ticketed if they are also violating another traffic law at the same time.
And, unlike DUI verdicts, which may not be discharged in bankruptcy by negligent parties, texting-related accidents don’t share the same protection. This means that a guilty party may be able to discharge any judgment against it for injuries caused by texting while driving.
Another deterrent to texting and driving should be the relative ease of proving texting while driving cases. Text records are kept by any cell phone carrier. In a personal injury lawsuit, a victim is entitled to obtain the cell phone records of the negligent party, and indications of text message activity will almost always lead to liability.
Still, that’s only part of the battle. Adding to the tragedy of the woman awarded $4.3 million was the fact that the driver in the case had no insurance. In fact, the driver didn’t even show up to the trial, or mount any defense. It is unlikely that the victim will ever reap any recovery of her judgment.
We Can Help You Today
Questions about an accident caused by DUI, DWI, texting or other distracted-driving situations? Talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your case.