Risking More Than Safety: Punitive Damages and Texting While Driving
We hear it on the news, we read about in the newspapers, and we witness it every time we take to the roads … driving while using a cell phone is dangerous. It causes us to take our eyes off the road and it dramatically slows our response time. As proven automobile accident attorneys, we are particularly aware of these hazards: we see the tragic effects of mobile phone use in the many cases we handle on a daily basis.
Texting While Driving is Dangerous
The evidence against texting while driving is clear. The numbers don’t lie; 23% of automobile accidents occur while the drivers are using cell phones. That accounts for 1.3 million automobile accidents a year. Despite the education and the laws that have gone into effect to deter cell phone use while driving, the number of vehicle accidents involving cell phone use increases every year. That means there are hundreds of thousands of people injured due to drivers using their cell phones every year. (More distracted driving statistics are posted on the Truck Accident Lawyers blog.)
Quick Investigation of the Crash
When a client is injured as the result of a driver using his/her cell phone, our Accident Evidence Response Team moves quickly to preserve critical evidence. The police report is a good place to start. In some jurisdictions, police officers now indicate on the report if a driver was using a portable electronic device at the time of the crash. At Whiting Law Group, we take immediate action to obtain the cell phone records and to nail down the exact time of the accident is crucial.
Pursuing Punitive Damages
We must also determine if the driver was acting as an employee or agent for a company and if so, was the cell phone use part of his/her employment. If the answer is ‘yes’ to both, we must consider a timely claim against the employer/principal.
Finally, depending on the facts of the automobile accident, it may be appropriate to ask the court for leave to seek punitive damages. We know cell phone use while driving is dangerous and to do so knowingly is to disregard the rights of those with whom we share the road. This wanton disregard of safety rises to the standard for the imposition of punitive damages.
As personal injury lawyers, our duty is to aggressively protect the rights of our clients. Since our society has determined that texting while driving is wantonly dangerous – and illegal in a number of states – we must consider the pursuit of punitive damages as a potential cause of action for our clients.