Hands on the Wheel and Eyes on the Road: What to Do If You’re Injured By a Distracted Driver
In South Carolina, there is an average of two car crashes every hour involving a distracted driver. In June 2014, South Carolina joined the majority of states in the country to ban texting and driving. But, texting isn’t the only dangerous distraction causing havoc on South Carolina roadways.
There are a variety of activities and bad behaviors that can distract a driver behind the wheel, including eating, drinking, loud music, screaming kids, reading navigation systems, tiredness, and even unusually high stress. These distractions have made the roadways ever more dangerous.
What if you are injured by a distracted driver?
You need a car accident attorney like Dana Adkins to make sure every aspect of your case is reviewed and every potential path of recovery is pursued. When it isn’t clear whether or not the other driver was distracted, car accident attorneys like Dana Adkins are able to spot the signs and collect the evidence to build your case. For example, our alarm bells go off every time we represent a client that was at a complete stop when they were rear-ended. This is because we know the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that distracted drivers are most likely involved in these types of collisions.
Currently, the only South Carolina law expressly prohibiting distracted driving is found at S.C. Code § 56-5-3890. This is the law that bans texting while driving. If a driver is texting when an accident occurs, then it could amount to negligence per se. This means the driver’s negligence is presumed as a matter of law, even if a citation was not issued. If you were injured by a driver who was texting, you could be eligible to recover compensation such as past and future medical expenses, lost income, diminishment of future earning ability, and pain & suffering. if a loved one was killed by a driver who was texting, their next-of-kin can bring a wrongful death claim seeking funeral and burial expenses, and the loss of their loved one’s support and services.
If you or a loved one are injured by a distracted driver, a car accident attorney like Dana Adkins will dig deeper to make sure every path of recovery is pursued. For example, another potential road to recovery is S.C. Code § 56-5-2920. This law provides that “Any person who drives any vehicle in such a manner as to indicate either a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”. While the law isn’t specific, Attorney Dana Adkins has successfully argued repeatedly that when a motorist chooses to drive while they are distracted, they are making a willful choice to endanger the lives and property of others on the roadway. This choice is nothing if not reckless.
If you are injured by a driver who was reckless, rather than merely negligent, it opens the door to the possibility of recovering punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish and deter reckless behavior. Punitive damages, when awarded, are in addition to actual damages for things such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain & suffering.
Punitive damages may be even more likely if you were injured by a distracted commercial driver, such as a long-haul trucker, delivery driver, or ride-share driver. This is partly due to specific laws that impose higher standards on commercial drivers. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has rules in place that are meant to prevent truck drivers from driving while drowsy but they are often violated. Truckers, delivery drivers, and ride-share drivers are notorious for driving while fatigued.
Commercial Drivers are especially unlikely to admit to being tired while driving. An accident attorney like Dana Adkins will need to investigate the case. It is often difficult to prove that someone fell asleep behind the wheel in a court of law. An experienced lawyer can establish how long the driver was awake prior to the wreck. This can be done by tracking down and subpoenaing eyewitnesses, or relying on circumstantial evidence, such as commercial trucking records, their work schedule, or their cell phone records. Traffic cameras and vehicle data recorder technology can also be obtained and employed to prove the facts of the case.
Of course, commercial drivers aren’t the only sleepy motorists. The National Sleep Foundation has identified certain people who may be at greater risk for falling asleep behind the wheel, including: people with sleeping disorders, such as sleep apnea, those who work at night, shift workers, and those who work long shifts, people who work more than 60 hours per week, any driver who is taking medication that has a sedating effect, males under the age of 26, and the elderly.
If a fatigued driver falls asleep at the wheel, the consequences can be horrific. The driver may run through a traffic light or stop sign at an intersection, drift into another lane, or plow into oncoming traffic. But, falling asleep while driving is not the only concern when it comes to drowsy driving. Similar to drunk drivers, fatigued drivers often have slowed reaction time, lack of coordination, and an inability to use proper judgment. This is why it is reckless to drive while fatigued and why punitive damages are available to punish and deter the danger of driving while fatigued.
All distracted driving takes your focus off the road and limits your ability to react when a high-risk situation happens. This isn’t only true when your car is moving. It can also happen, for example, when you are at a red light or stopped in traffic. Lets say you are putting on your makeup while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. In that moment, you may not see the child who steps off the curb in front of your car and falls. Even more ludicrous is the driver who runs over a cyclist, because they were shaving their stubble while speeding down the roadway. These types if tragedies are entirely avoidable. No one should engage in these types of dangerous activities but they are surprisingly common.
Even your morning coffee has been identified as a major distraction while driving. In fact, it tops The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration list of the 10 most dangerous types of food to eat while driving. This is because of the likelihood it may spill. Even if you only dribble a little on yourself, the natural reaction is to fumble for napkins to clean it up immediately. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that eating or drinking from an open container while driving increases the likelihoods of near-miss crashes or crashes by nearly 39%. Hagerty Classic Insurance, a provider of classic-car insurance, began to look more closely at this issue after a DMV check on an insurance applicant turned up a "restraining order" against anything edible within his reach while driving. The man apparently had several previous accidents related to food on his driving record.
Distracted driving accidents may cause serious injury to those involved. For this reason, it is important to seek legal assistance right away if you have been hurt by a distracted driver.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in an auto accident in Charleston or elsewhere in South Carolina, Attorney Dana Adkins may be able to help you recover financial compensation for your financial losses, like medical expenses, emotional distresses, and pain and suffering, as well as possible punitive damages.
Contact Palmetto State Injury Lawyers to receive a free thorough assessment of your case.