Nine people die and 1,153 people are injured due to distracted driving every single day in America. The grim statistics have led many states, such as New Jersey, to enact tougher laws regarding texting and driving accidents. Cell phone users behind the wheel are often guilty of driving recklessly with one hand, taking their eyes off the road, failing to keep a proper lookout, and carrying on conversations that take the mind off the task of safely operating a motor vehicle.
At the law firm of Eisbrouch Marsh, our car accident lawyers feel very strongly about the importance of prosecuting negligent and careless drivers who text. We are passionate about sending a message that breaking the law is not without consequence. If you were involved in a distracted driving accident in Passaic, Hudson, Morris, Middlesex, Essex or Bergen County, call us today at 201-342-5545 for a comprehensive and complimentary case review.
Texting and Driving Accidents
It may only take 4.6 seconds to type and send a text message, but it only takes one split second to take the life of another person in a crash. Experts have likened the act of texting while driving as the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blindfolded at 55 miles per hour. In fact, texting behind the wheel increases the odds of an accident by 400 to 800 percent!
Consider these statistics:
- Distracted driving is the leading cause of car accidents – with cell phones as the #1 distraction.
- In 2010, at least 28% of all traffic accidents (more than 1.6 million crashes) involved drivers using phones.
- There were 3,328 distracted driving fatalities in 2012. Another 421,000 people were injured nationwide.
- In New Jersey, driver inattention has been blamed for 750,000 motor vehicles since 2009.
- At any given time, 11% of drivers are using a cell phone.
- The annual cost of cell phone accidents is estimated at $43 billion.
As shocking as these statistics are, the NY Daily News reports that the number of deaths from car crashes involving texting while driving are extremely underreported. A study of data from 2009 to 2011 conducted by the National Safety Council found that, of 180 fatal crashes, only half of the reports contained “distracted driving” as a cause, even though there was “strong evidence to suggest” they were all caused by drivers on cell phones.
Only 8 percent of 2009 crashes and 35 percent of 2010 crashes examined were coded as involving cell phones, even when drivers freely admitted to authorities that they were using their phones at the time of the crash.
Teenager Distracted Driving Presents a Growing Problem
Teenagers represent a particularly high-risk group of distracted drivers.
- 20 percent of teens admit that they have sent multiple text messages while driving.
- A quarter of teens respond to at least one text message every time they drive.
- 41% of teens email while driving, with 9 in 10 drivers expecting to get a response within 5 minutes.
- In 2013, 24% of teens say they’ve surfed the web and checked social media sites while driving.
- For drivers ages 15-19 who were involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distractions came from texts.
- Teens on cell phones are responsible for 11% of all crash fatalities and 14% of all crash injuries.
- 1 in 5 young drivers feel texting and driving is “no big deal.”
Personal injury attorneys David Eisbrouch and Eileen Marsh are looking to stem the epidemic of distracted drivers who don’t even think twice about texting a friend and taking a life. If you have been victimized by cell phone-related negligent driving in Hackensack, Paramus, or anywhere in Bergen County or northern New Jersey, we can help you fight for justice and fair compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and more.
New Jersey Laws Governing Texting and Driving
New Jersey is among nine states that ban handheld cellphone use for all drivers. It is also one of 35 states that ban texting and driving. Following an update to the law in 2012, texting and driving is now listed as a “primary offense,” meaning that police officers can stop drivers based solely on the crime of using a phone behind the wheel – and the penalties are stiff.
- First time texting and driving offenses in NJ carry a minimum fine of $200, with maximum fines up to $400.
- Second offenses range from $400 to $600, with maximum fines up to $800 for subsequent offenses.
- Drivers licenses can be suspended for 90 days for anyone convicted of three or more offenses.
- Three points can be added to the license of a repeat distracted driver.
Surprisingly enough, there are still nine states that do not yet have anti-texting and driving laws, even though the US Department of Transportation reported that more than 3,300 people have died in distracted driver accidents in 2011 (the most recent year for which data is available).
In New York, the use of all hand-held mobile devices is also banned and listed as a primary offense. Drivers are subject to a $100 fine with mandatory surcharges up to $85. Drivers will also receive three points on their licenses.
If a New Jersey driver causes an accident while texting and driving, the fines for bodily injury can run up to $150,000 with prison sentences up to 10 years, according to “Kulesh Kubert and Bolis’ Law.” New legislation proposed by state senator James Holzapfel would allow police officers to search through cellphones if they have “reasonable grounds” to believe the driver was talking or texting when the crash occurred.
Proving Liability in a Distracted Driving Case
The courts generally uphold that the act of texting and driving constitutes as negligence and therefore, implies liability. The best thing you can do after a distracted driving accident is see if there are any witnesses who may be able to verify your version of the story. When there are no eyewitnesses, the testimony of a police officer tending to the scene can be used. A car accident attorney may also be able to subpoena stoplight camera footage and driver cell phone records.
There was a controversial NJ texting and driving case in 2009 where teenager Kyle Best was texting and driving when he veered into oncoming traffic, hitting a couple on a motorcycle, which resulted in both David and Linda Kubert losing a leg. The couple not only sued Best, but Shannon Colonna, the teenager who was texting Best at the time, as well. The court dismissed the claim, but the Kuberts appealed. Interestingly enough, the appeals court ruled that the car accident attorneys failed to prove Colonna was aware her friend was driving at the time, but that “a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.”
So, in some cases, a third party may be sued for damages.
A distracted driver is legally responsible for personal injuries to you and your passengers, as well as property damage – even in “no-fault” states like New Jersey or New York. Accidents that result in death, disfigurement, scarring, fractures, loss of a fetus, or any other type of permanent injury have a particularly good chance of winning a distracted driving lawsuit. You may also sue for punitive damages that include loss of future wages, wrongful death, emotional hardship, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment in life, and the cost of ongoing medical expenses.
In the Kyle Best case, he settled with the Kuberts for $500,000 – the maximum his insurance would cover, paid $775 in fines, and agreed to speak at 14 local high schools regarding the consequences of texting and driving accidents. However, it’s not unusual to see distracted driving settlements and verdicts extend into the millions of dollars.
In New York, recent cell phone related distracted driving lawsuits resulted in a $5 million award for a plaintiff who suffered activation of pre-existing conditions, and a $4 million award for a plaintiff who suffered a herniated disk. Car accident lawyers at Eisbrouch Marsh will seek the maximum compensation for your injuries.
Speak with a Trusted Car Accident Attorney
The law can be complicated and confusing when it comes to distracted driving trials, especially when it’s your word against theirs. The burden lies in proof – and we know just how to get it. Eisbrouch Marsh have been practicing for 25 years, helping plaintiffs gain just compensation for their injuries. We know the law inside and out. We’ll approach your case with a sympathetic ear and a vast arsenal of resources, including expert witnesses who are well-versed in texting and driving cases.
Call 201-342-5545 for a free consultation with one of our New Jersey texting and driving accident lawyers. Our legal services are without charge unless you win a jury award or settlement. Please note that all attorney fees are transparent and discussed in advance. With offices in Hackensack, Newark, and New York, our lawyers welcome clients from Bergen County, Essex County and all nearby areas in New Jersey.
- CDC, Distracted Driving, https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/
- Governors Highway Safety Association, Distracted Driving Laws, http://www.ghsa.org/state-laws/issues/Distracted-Driving
- Texting & Driving Safety, http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com/