The Bailey Firm

Newark Legal Issues Blog

You have legal rights if a distracted driver causes a crash

Distracted driving has reached epidemic levels across the United States. In 2016, the most recent year with records available, roughly 3,450 people died as a result of distracted driving. Those cases are only the ones with clear evidence of distraction, meaning the total number could be much higher.

While mobile phones and similar devices are a major contributing factor to distracted driving, they are not the only source of distraction. Discussions with other people in the vehicle, adjusting settings on the radio, or even eating, drinking and grooming while driving, can contribute to distractions and, therefore, a crash.

If you get into an accident caused by someone else who was distracted at the wheel, you likely have the legal right to pursue a personal injury claim against that driver for the injuries and losses they caused you.

New Jersey law prohibits texting at the wheel

New Jersey has a relatively strict legal stand on distracted driving. In fact, talking on the phone or texting while driving are both primary offenses. Seeing someone with a phone in their hand is reason enough for law enforcement to conduct a traffic stop. They can then issue citations, which carry increasing fines and penalties for subsequent offenses.

Those caught texting at the wheel without a previous offense will pay a fine of between $200 and $400. Second offenses have an increased fine of between $400 and $600. Anyone cited for a third or subsequent digital distraction offense will have to pay between $600 and $800 in fines. They will also have three points assigned to their license and face up to 90 days worth of license suspension. All of those penalties still do not deter drivers from engaging in distractions at the wheel.

Distraction is both a wrongful act and form of negligence

In most cases involving personal injury or wrongful death, the plaintiff must provide evidence to the courts that a wrongful act on the part of the defendant or negligence contributed directly to the incident. In the case of distracted driving collisions, there is a very clear cause and effect relationship between distraction and collisions.

More importantly, because texting or talking on the phone while driving is against New Jersey law, that makes it a wrongful act. Arguably, it is also a form of negligence, as individuals cannot adequately operate a vehicle while also focusing on their phones.

If law enforcement conclude that distraction contributed to your crash, you may want to explore whether a lawsuit for compensation is a good idea. Particularly in cases where insurance coverage does not offset both the property damage and medical costs you incur, taking civil action against a distracted driver may be your best option.

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