Illinois Distracted Driving Accident Victim Attorneys
Distracted driving is a national epidemic, and Illinois is no exception. Nationwide, thousands of people are killed each year and hundreds of thousands injured in distracted driving accidents.
The use of mobile devices such as cell phones while driving gets the most attention when it comes to distracted driving. Texting, talking on the phone and other mobile device use is more likely to be explicitly legally prohibited than other types of distracted driving, and several public service campaigns are aimed at keeping cell phones out of drivers’ hands.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving much more broadly, as any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from driving. Some common examples include:
- Talking on a cell phone
- Watching video or movies
- Flipping through CDs
- Changing the radio station
- Looking for something you dropped
- Eating or drinking
- Lighting a cigarette
- Looking at a map
- Using GPS navigation
Note that many of these activities, standing alone, are legal for a driver in Illinois. However, the fact that an activity is not explicitly prohibited by law does not excuse the driver from liability. The driver has a responsibility to exercise reasonable care in driving, and failure to do so may result in liability for damages, regardless of the nature of the distraction.
Personal Injury Liability for Distracted Driving
A distracted driver may be ticketed in Illinois, but the issuance of a ticket is not required for the victim of a distracted driving accident to pursue a personal injury claim against the negligent driver. All that is required is that the injured party establish the basic elements of a negligence claim:
- That the driver had a duty of care
- That the driver breached (failed to live up to) that duty
- That the failure was the cause of the accident; and
- That the injured party suffered damages as a result
In simple English, every Illinois driver has a duty to drive safely, and to refrain from taking unnecessary risks that could put others in danger. A driver who opts to send a text message or jot down a few grocery items that have just popped into her head rather than remaining focused on the task of driving has almost certainly breached that duty. If the distraction caused the accident and the accident caused the injury, a basis negligence claim may be established. Common damages would include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Damage to your vehicle or other property
Additional Party Liability in Distracted Driving Cases
While the driver will almost always be one responsible party in a distracted driving case, there are circumstances under which additional parties—and occasionally even alternate parties—may be responsible.
If a florist’s employee is making deliveries for the florist, the company will likely be liable for the driver’s negligence. But, the driver needn’t necessarily be acting on behalf of the employer if the employer plays a role in the distraction. For example, if the florist’s driver has just turned in the company van and begun the 20-minute drive home in his own car when the employer calls his cell phone to yell at him about an issue with a delivery that day, the employer may be partially liable for the accident. Although the driver wasn’t driving on behalf of the employer, the employer knowingly caused the distraction.
That same principle may apply to passengers in the car and other parties. If an accident occurs because the front seat passenger and the driver are both voluntarily participating in a slap fight with one another, they may both be responsible for the damages that occur. On the other hand, if a back seat passenger throws an object at the driver, distracting her against her will, liability may lie with the passenger.
In some cases, particularly when the additional fault lies with an employer, the addition of a responsible party may increase your chances of receiving a fair settlement or collecting on a verdict, as the employer will likely have more resources and better insurance coverage.
An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
It may be difficult to identify all possible responsible parties in a distracted driving case. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. Our personal injury attorneys have the knowledge and experience to assess your case and advise you as to which parties to pursue and what type of damages you might be able to expect.
Protect Your Rights Immediately after a Distracted Driving Accident
When you’ve been injured in an accident that was somebody else’s fault, whether due to distracted driving or another type of negligence, you will have many opportunities to make mistakes and harm your personal injury case. Some of the most common mistakes personal injury victims make include:
- Allowing an insurance company representative to put words in their mouths during early interviews
- Making statements while still disoriented or under the influence of medications
- Making social media posts that can be used as evidence against them
- Making statements like “It wasn’t your fault!” out of courtesy at the scene of the accident
- Neglecting to or not knowing how to preserve evidence and collect witness information
- Entering into a lowball settlement directly with the insurance company
The best way to protect yourself from a legal perspective is to get an experienced advocate in your corner as early in the process as possible, before you make missteps that may be difficult or impossible to correct.
Devins & McFetridge, Ltd. Can Help
If you’ve been the victim of a distracted driving accident and suffered injuries as a result, you are not alone. Contact us for a free consultation, call (217) 355-9123 or contact us online. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about your rights and how we can help.