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Cell Phone Accident Injuries And What The New York Law Says

Jul 3, 2020 | Car Accidents

Distracted driving due to cell phone use while behind the wheel is a major cause behind many car accidents in New York. Since 2009, accidents related to texting and cell phone use in New York have risen by a whopping 86% according to comprehensive analyses by TrafficTickets.com based on the DMV data.

In 2009 alone, 650 accidents were recorded in New York where a driver was found texting or using a cell phone while driving. By 2018, that number had already increased by 86% to 1,212. Out of these accidents, 924 were caused solely because of cell phone use while driving.

There can be a number of distractions resulting from cell phone use during driving. These can include:

  • Talking on or listening to cell phones
  • Texting while driving
  • Using apps and social media while driving, especially in the case of teenage drivers

Drivers below 20 comprise the most sizable percentage of those involved in distracted driving accidents in New York. Attending to a call or sending a text might take very little time. However, during that time, the risk of an accident becomes exponentially larger. In fact, during just 5 seconds spent texting, a car traveling at 55 mph can traverse the length of an entire football field without any driver input.

The use of Bluetooth hands-free devices that prevent handheld cellphone use while driving has been on the rise. However, despite enabling drivers to keep their eyes on the road, these devices are still not fully effective. Talking on the phone using such a device might not cause a physical distraction but still be responsible for a mental one.

Similar danger can result from smartwatch use, especially because most modern smartwatches have texting and calling capabilities. The temptation of looking at their wrists in order to check notifications can increase the risk of drivers manifold. This can be a distraction that significantly increases the chance of injury for the drivers and others on the road.

Using a cell phone while driving can put many lives at risk. Drivers who commit this offense can be held liable for accidents and injuries that occur as a result of this activity.

Cell Phone and Bluetooth Device Laws During Driving in New York

Several state governments have put measures in place to curb cell phone use while driving, especially keeping in mind the consistent rise in car accidents in the United States due to distracted driving. Private employers and other concerned parties have also taken steps to reduce the risk of accidents by banning cell phone use during driving on the clock.

There are appropriate provisions in New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law that aim to prevent traffic accidents caused due to the use of cell phones, PDAs, laptops, smartwatches, pagers, and other similar devices. The laws clearly state that: “No individual must operate an automobile while using a portable electronic device while the motor vehicle is in motion.”

The prohibited activities include:

  • Holding an electronic device
  • Reading, browsing, saving, sending, accessing, composing, retrieving, or transmitting electronic data like webpages, text messages, and emails
  • Capturing, viewing, or transmitting images
  • Playing mobile games

Any violation of this law can put two points on the license and driving record of the concerned driver and bring a fine of up to $250.

Federal Texting Ban for Bus and Truck Drivers

Since the 26th of January 2010, people driving commercial vehicles in the United States have been completely banned from using hand-held cell phones and texting during driving. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the definition of a commercial vehicle includes these criteria:

  • Vehicles weighing 10,001 pounds or more
  • Vehicles used or designed to carry nine or more people, driver included, in return for compensation
  • Vehicles used or designed to carry 16 or more people, driver included, without compensation
  • Vehicles transporting hazardous materials

These restrictions were directly ordered by the DOT and are applicable for bus drivers and truckers across the whole country. Violation of this federal ban can result in fines up to $2,750.

Cell Phone Use during Driving Can Be Responsible for Car Accidents

When one party sues another for damages caused by a car accident, the person initiating the lawsuit requires to prove beyond doubt that the other involved driver was responsible for causing the accident due to careless driving.

In a number of recent cases, plaintiffs have argued that the other driver was negligent and legally liable for their accident and injuries because of the use of an electronic device before or during the collision. Many courts have agreed with this argument.

In some other cases, the injured plaintiffs have also been found to have contributed to the car accident due to their own cell phone use.

There can be many examples of distracted and careless driving due to cell phone use, including:

  • Driving with just one hand on the wheel.
  • Taking eyes away from the road to handle a cell phone, send a text message, or dial a phone number.
  • Inability to pay adequate attention to surrounding traffic dangers due to distractions brought about by cell phone use (this can also include distractions caused by the cell phone use of a passenger).
  • Getting distracted due to a cell phone conversation, including one using a hands-free device (studies indicate that involvement in any kind of conversation, especially one that is emotionally charged, can cause driver distraction and result in careless driving).

Regarding Employees Conducting Business on Cell Phones

If an employee was busy in a call or text message related to work during an accident, their employer can be held legally responsible.

In such cases, the injured party is more likely to bring a lawsuit against the employer rather than the employee due to the notion that the employer would have more financial resources to pay damages or settlements. This is the main reason why more and more employers completely ban employees from using electronic devices and phones, both issued by work or personally owned, during driving.

Cell Phone Use by Children: Are Parents Responsible?

In many cases in recent years, a common argument by the plaintiffs has been that parents should be legally liable for car accidents caused by cell phone use by their children. In these cases, a minor child would be using a cell phone during driving that has been provided to them by their parents. While the law on this is still unclear, parents should definitely avoid encouraging their children to use their cell phones during driving.

It is also important to keep in mind that many states have specific cell phone laws for novice drivers and teenagers. In these states, there can be more stringent restrictions for teenagers than adults when it comes to cell phone use behind the wheel.

Important Points about Insurance

Insurance companies have started to sit up and take notice of the close connection between car accidents and cell phone use. Several car insurance websites provide warnings regarding the dangers involved in distracted driving. If you are ticketed for cell phone use while driving or for causing a car accident due to cell phone use, it is highly likely that your insurance premiums would rise steeply. The best strategy to avoid this is to completely eliminate the chance of accidents by removing driver distractions.

Important Steps in Building Your Case

Here are some of the important steps that competent personal injury attorneys in New York at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP will usually suggest to clients:

  1. Subpoena the other driver in order to obtain their cell phone records. These can be instrumental in proving that the driver was using their phone during the accident.
  2. Conduct witness interviews to determine if anyone observed the driver prior to the crash. If eyewitness accounts show that the driver was looking down, it can point to cell phone use.
  3. Ask for video footage from security cameras in the area.
  4. Subpoena the motor vehicle record of the other driver to find out if they have a prior history of unsafe driver behavior or traffic accidents.
  5. Properly examine the vehicle of the other driver to reconstruct what might have happened. For example, if you find food on the floor, it might be possible that the driver was eating during the accident.
  6. Question the other driver under oath during a deposition.

Hiring the Best New York Distracted Driving Accident Attorneys

If you have suffered financial, physical, and emotional trauma due to a car accident caused by a negligent driver who was using a cell phone, we at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP can help you build a strong case and push for compensation. Our skilled and experienced personal injury attorneys in New York will help you collect evidence that determines liability and helps settle your claim for the maximum amount possible. You can get in touch with us for a consultation using our online contact form or by calling us at (347) 504-1246.