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Understanding Legal Responsibility in Distracted Driving Accidents

Each April marks Distracted Driving Month, a public awareness campaign aimed at calling attention to the dangers distractions pose to motorists who engage in risky behavior and those they share the road with. We, therefore, thought it would be appropriate to share how big of an issue this irresponsible practice is in our state and to share information to help you better understand legal responsibility in distracted driving accidents in case a negligent motorist strikes you, causing you to suffer injuries.

Alabama Distracted Driving Statistics

Accidents occur because motorists get behind the wheel unprepared to give the operation of their vehicle their full attention far too often. Some data that we’d like to share with you to prove that’s the case include:

While not an Alabama-specific data point, statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2019 revealed that motorists aged 15-20 are more likely to be distracted when driving than those aged 21 or over. The federal agency also discovered that 9% of these younger drivers’ crashes can be blamed on distractions.

Dangers Associated With Driving Distractions

Distracted driving accidents can cause vehicle occupants harm that’s not all that different from what the damage a drunk driving crash can cause. In other words, it may lead to a vehicle operator driving recklessly, including unexpectedly braking, speeding, and failing to yield to the right of way. 

And, since reckless driving behaviors are similar, the catastrophic injuries that may result, such as spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injuries, and crush injuries resulting in amputations, may result. 

It’s in situations like the ones described above where holding the liable party financially responsible for your losses may make quite the difference in terms of the quality of health care you receive which may affect your long-term outlook.

Distracted Driving Is Illegal in Alabama

Our state has laws prohibiting distracted driving on the books. The most recent one, a hands-free law, passed in 2023, goes into full effect (grace period ending) in June 2024. It’s described as a secondary offense, which means that motorists must not only be observed committing a secondary infraction of the law to receive a citation for this distracted driving-related violation of holding a cell phone while operating a vehicle.

Alabama Motor Vehicles and Traffic § 32-5A-350 already outlined how using a wireless communication device, which included a handheld cellular telephone, to write, send, or read texts during the operation of a vehicle on our state’s public roadways was also illegal. Some exceptions to this law included if a motorist was parked on a shoulder, making an emergency call, or accessing directions to an address that was previously programmed into the GPS system.

Holding Negligent Motorists Accountable for Injuries and Deaths Attributable to Distractions

Alabama is an at-fault state. Under this system, you’re able to recover compensation from the party at fault for striking and hurting you. However, our state is also a pure contributory negligence one. Under this doctrine, you’re unable to recover any damages for losses sustained in an accident, for example, if you share any fault in causing it. What does all this mean if a distracted driver struck you causing you injuries or claiming a loved one’s life?

When police officers arrive at a crash scene, they take not only the accounts of what happened from those involved in the accident but also eyewitnesses, some of whom may have seen one or both parties to the wreck using their phones leading up to the collision. In addition, if you hire an attorney to help you navigate the claims process, it’s not uncommon for them to source photographs or video footage that may shed light on contributing factors to a crash. In some cases, subpoenaing phone records may also be warranted. 

Drivers’ or eyewitness statements and other types of evidence all play a role in helping insurance adjusters and car accident attorneys like ours determine where liability, which is another way of saying legal responsibility, lies and whether you’re due any compensation for your losses. This is one of the reasons why lawyers often encourage accident victims to be careful what they say and to whom after their wreck and to contact them for guidance instead. 

If you’ve been injured due to your involvement in a distracted driving crash, we hope you’ll do the same. At Tobias & Comer Law, LLC, we offer free consultations to discuss your case and how to proceed with it, so reach out to speak with an attorney today.

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