As a resident of Florida, you may be familiar with the dangers of distracted driving, especially texting and driving. Distracted driving is any activity that takes a driver's attention away from driving, and it can include activities such as texting, eating, or adjusting the radio. According to data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), distracted driving caused over 56,000 crashes, 2,729 serious bodily injuries, and 346 fatalities in 2021. If you were involved in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, including a driver that was texting and driving, you may be entitled to compensation, and this compensation may include punitive damages.
The goal of this article is to help you gain a comprehensive understanding of punitive damages in the context of texting and driving accidents. We will discuss the definition of distracted driving, the importance of awareness of distracted driving, and the potential consequences of engaging in distracted driving. We will also explore the types of damages available to victims of texting and driving accidents and how to prove gross negligence to obtain punitive damages.
Definition of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts a driver's attention away from the road. There are three main types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions occur when a driver takes their eyes off the road, manual distractions occur when a driver takes their hands off the wheel, and cognitive distractions occur when a driver's mind is not focused on driving. Examples of distracted driving include texting, using a cell phone, eating, or drinking, adjusting the radio or climate controls, and talking to passengers.
Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it involves all three types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. When a driver texts while driving, they are not only taking their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road, but their mind is also focused on the task of texting instead of driving. That’s why texting and driving is such a huge problem in Orlando and throughout State of Florida. In fact, it’s a problem everywhere.
Why Punitive Damages for Texting and Driving?
Punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party for their wrongful behavior and to send a message to others that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Other types of damages, like compensatory damages, exist to “make the victim whole,” to pay that person back for the losses he or she suffered.
In cases where the at-fault party's behavior is especially egregious or shows a complete disregard for the safety of others, punitive damages may be more substantial. By imposing these additional damages, the court seeks to discourage the at-fault party from engaging in similar behavior in the future and to help prevent similar texting and driving accidents from occurring by making an example out of the wrongdoer.
In general, you’re more likely to see punitive damages awarded in a case involving a commercial vehicle and a negligent company, like a trucking company, than with an ordinary person-on-person car accident. That’s because commercial drivers may be cited multiple times for texting and driving, and the company may keep that driver anyway, even though the trucking company knows the driver is dangerous. If the driver has been cited multiple times for texting and driving or has a history of hurting people because of texting while driving, the trucking company’s disregard for the safety of others by hiring the dangerous driver could potentially warrant punitive damages.
Importance of Distracted Driving Awareness
Distracted driving is a serious issue that affects thousands of people every year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving was a factor in 2,841 fatal crashes in 2018 alone. Many of these crashes could have been prevented if drivers were more aware of the dangers of distracted driving and took steps to avoid engaging in these activities while driving.
It is important for all drivers to be aware of the risks associated with distracted driving and to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others on the road. By staying focused on the task of driving and avoiding distractions, we can all help reduce the number of accidents and fatalities caused by distracted driving.
Types of Damages in Texting and Driving Accidents
If you were involved in a car accident, pedestrian accident, or truck accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensatory damages to help you recover from your losses. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate victims for their losses, including medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.
In addition to compensatory damages, victims of texting and driving accidents may also be eligible for punitive damages. As we talked about above, punitive damages are meant to punish the at-fault driver for their behavior and to deter them from engaging in similar behavior in the future. Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the at-fault driver's behavior was grossly negligent or intentional. For punitive damages, we’re looking for outrageous and egregious behavior rather than run-of-the-mill negligence.
Compensatory Damages in Texting and Driving Accidents
As we’ve talked about in this article, compensatory damages are designed to compensate victims for their losses, to make them whole. In the context of texting and driving accidents, compensatory damages may include things like medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Victims of texting and driving accidents may be entitled to compensation for their medical expenses, including hospital bills, doctor's visits, medication, and rehabilitation costs.
If a victim is unable to work due to their injuries, they may be entitled to compensation for their lost wages. This can include both current and future lost wages, as well as lost earning capacity if the victim is unable to return to their previous job or earn the same income they did prior to the accident.
Pain And Suffering
Victims of texting and driving accidents may be entitled to compensation for their physical and emotional pain and suffering. This can include compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.
In cases where the at-fault driver's behavior was grossly negligent or intentional, victims of texting and driving accidents may be entitled to punitive damages. As a brief review, punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault driver and discourage similar behavior in the future. The amount of punitive damages awarded will usually depend upon on the severity of the driver's actions and the level of harm caused to the victim.
How to Prove Gross Negligence in a Texting and Driving Accident
Proving gross negligence in a texting and driving accident can be challenging, but it is not impossible. It typically requires evidence that the at-fault driver's behavior was especially reckless and showed a complete disregard for the safety of others. Some ways to prove gross negligence include:
- Eyewitness Testimony: If there were witnesses to the accident who can testify that the at-fault driver was texting or otherwise distracted at the time of the crash, this can be strong evidence of their negligence.
- Phone Records: If the at-fault driver's phone records show that they were texting or using their phone at the time of the accident, this can also be used as evidence of their negligence.
- Surveillance Footage: Depending on the location of the accident, there may be surveillance footage that can be used to show the at-fault driver's behavior leading up to the crash.
- Accident Reconstruction Reports: In some cases, accident reconstruction experts may be able to provide evidence that the at-fault driver's behavior was grossly negligent based on the circumstances of the accident.
- Other Evidence: Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, there may be other forms of evidence that can be used to show that the at-fault driver's behavior was grossly negligent, such as surveillance footage or accident reconstruction reports.
- Expert Testimony: An accident reconstructionist can be hired to examine the evidence and provide expert testimony on the cause of the accident. They can also help establish whether the driver's behavior constituted gross negligence.
- Prior History: If the at-fault driver has a prior history of reckless driving or has been cited for texting while driving in the past, this can also be used to establish a pattern of gross negligence.
- Black Box Data: The black box records information such as the speed of the vehicle, the use of brakes, and whether the driver was wearing a seatbelt. In some cases, the black box data can provide critical information about the driver's behavior leading up to the crash, including whether they were using their phone or engaging in other distracting activities while driving.
It is important to note that proving gross negligence requires a high standard of proof. Working with the right attorney can help ensure that someone gathers and preserves all the proper evidence and uses it to support a claim for punitive damages.
Why Should I Consider Hiring an Attorney for my Texting and Driving Accident?
If you have been involved in a car accident caused by distracted driving, including texting while driving, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options for pursuing compensation, including punitive damages. They can also help gather evidence to support your case and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. By holding the at-fault driver accountable for their negligence and reckless behavior, you can help prevent future accidents and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve for your losses.
Get Your Free Consultation with an Orlando Personal Injury Lawyer at Our Office
If you have been injured by a driver who was texting while driving, you should speak with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer as soon as possible because you may be entitled to compensation. You can contact us online or you can call our Orlando, Florida law office at (321) 352-7588 to schedule your consultation.
If you need a South Carolina personal injury lawyer, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (843) 638-6590. We have at least one lawyer licensed in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.