Drivers are expected to stay focused on the road and minimize distractions. This is especially the case in Washington, DC, which is known for its heavy traffic and dangerous driving conditions. When motorists fail to observe this common-sense rule, they put others at risk. Distracted driving is a major cause of serious and sometimes fatal traffic accidents in DC. However, victims do have legal recourse.
Were you injured in a Washington, DC distracted driving accident? Did a loved one lose their life because of someone else’s irresponsible driving? Give Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP a call now.
The Dangers Of Distracted Driving in D.C.
Keeping your attention on the road is a basic responsibility of any driver. But there are more distractions now than ever. Cell phones, radio, and passengers can easily take a motorist’s eyes and mind off of driving. Electronic devices can especially be dangerous, and attention has largely focused on them in recent years in the form of new laws. However, more mundane activities like eating in the car and even personal grooming can also cause a distraction.
Everyone has the right to expect that drivers will use caution and take reasonable steps to safely operate their vehicles. And that includes avoiding distractions or at least keeping them to a minimum. Washington, D.C. has strict distracted driving laws, particularly concerning electronic devices. More generally, the law requires all motorists to stay alert and stay focused when they’re behind the wheel. These are the activities that drivers should avoid:
- Eating or drinking
- Personal grooming
- Using cell phones, including texting while driving and making calls
- Adjusting dials and controls in the vehicle, such as the radio
- Operating a GPS or other navigational device
- Reading of any kind, including newspapers and books
- Talking to passengers
Drivers must use a hands-free device if they wish to operate a phone, and are still required to be safe when they do so. There are some limited exceptions to this requirement. For example, a driver can use a phone without a hands-free device in the event of an emergency.
What Are The Consequences Of Distracted Driving?
Drivers who aren’t focused can cause major havoc, and potentially death. Washington, D.C. has relatively high traffic volume most of the time, not just during rush hour. A distracted driver can injure or kill not only other drivers and their passengers but motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians as well. A larger vehicle can do even more damage and is more likely to cause a fatal accident when distracted driving is a factor.
Victims of distracted driving will have significant medical bills stemming from their injuries. This is just the start. A victim will probably lose time from work and may not be able to return to his or her previous job because of the injuries. Pain and suffering and the need for rehabilitation are also common among victims. Tragically, some people die from their injuries. In that case, eligible survivors can maintain a wrongful death lawsuit, which is similar to a personal injury claim.
How Can Victims Hold Distracted Drivers Liable?
In general, a victim of a distracted driving accident must prove the following four elements:
- Duty. First, the wrongful driver must have owed a duty of care to the injured victim. Because all drivers are legally required to obey traffic laws and act with reasonable care while behind the wheel, this element is usually fairly easy to prove.
- Breach. A breach happens when, through some negligent act or omission, a driver violates the above duty. Texting while driving or doing anything else that takes the driver’s focus away from the road or makes the driver less alert is evidence of a breach.
- Causation. This element refers to the direct causal link that must be established between the breach and the driver’s injuries. If another intervening cause actually injured the driver – for example, a speeding driver who cuts off the victim and causes a wreck – then the distracted driver would likely not be held liable.
- Damages. Damages include some of the items mentioned earlier such as medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more.
Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury lawsuits. The main difference is that an eligible survivor essentially maintains the action that the victim could have, had he or she survived. There are numerous damages that can be claimed, such as the deceased victim’s income that would have been earned had he or she lived. If a loved one passed away in a distracted driving accident, our firm can help.
Proving Distracted Driving In DC
Of course, you can expect the wrongful driver or his or her insurance company to deny liability. The obligation to prove distracted driving rests with the injured victim. Working with a skilled personal injury attorney, however, some of the following evidence may be used:
- Cell phone records. These provide critical evidence of what the driver was doing just before an accident, such as sending text messages or using a phone’s web browser.
- Accident reconstructions. A reconstruction may be used to analyze the accident scene and find evidence consistent with distracted driving.
- Eyewitnesses. There may be other drivers who observed the distracted driver just before the accident, and they can provide valuable testimony.
- Video footage. Dash cameras are becoming increasingly common, and other forms of video like surveillance footage can also help.
Contact Our DC Distracted Driving Accident Attorney
Avoiding distractions is a basic duty of anyone who drives in Washington, D.C. Our law firm is here to help you if someone’s negligent actions behind the wheel injured you or a loved one. Call Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today.
Koonz McKenney Johnson & Depaolis serve residents of Washington DC including those living in Capitol Hill, Columbia Heights, Downtown District of Columbia, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, and Mount Vernon.