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Accidents Caused by Texting and Driving - Penalties and Liability

Most drivers will admit to driving while distracted at some point or another. Whether it's putting on makeup, eating, or texting while driving, we've all done it. Although any type of distracted driving is generally frowned upon, none compare to the danger of texting while driving.

Reading and/or sending a text message is the leading cause of distracted driving accidents, accounting for over 1.6 million car wrecks on a yearly basis (that's about 1 of every 4 accidents in the US). This article will focus on texting while driving, a car accident victims' rights, and the evolution of Texas law as it relates to crashes caused by distracted drivers.

Texting While Driving Laws in Texas

In 2016, distracted drivers were involved in 109,658 traffic accidents (causing over 3,000 serious injuries and 455 deaths) in Texas alone! In response to this distracted driving epidemic, the Texas Legislature finally passed a statewide ban on texting and driving which went into effect on September 1, 2017. Texas law now states that it is illegal to read, write, or send an electronic message via a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.

It doesn't matter if you're texting, browsing Facebook, or simply using GPS; if an officer witnesses you holding and/or looking at your phone while on the road, then the officer has the right to pull you over to investigate, issue a warning, and/or write you a citation. The law is very narrow in scope (you're still technically allowed to use GPS, music apps, enter a phone number, or even browse the internet), but it's ultimately up to the officer's discretion to issue a ticket if he or she believes you were sending, viewing, or even receiving an electronic message (e.g., an SMS or Twitter/Facebook post).

Fines and Penalties

The fine for first-time offenders of Texas' texting while driving law can be up to $99, and repeat offenders can be fined up to $200 per citation. If the offender caused a car accident involving serious harm or death, the driver can also be charged with a Class A misdemeanor that could result in jail time of up to one year and a fine of up to $4,000 (in addition to any other criminal charges such as 'vehicular manslaughter' or 'accident causing injury').

An Accident Victim's Rights

Those injured in car accidents caused by distracted drivers are entitled to bring a negligence claim (or lawsuit) against the other party to recover money damages from the at-fault driver (or more-accurately, their insurance company). Hiring an attorney is always recommended in any personal injury claim, but in order to win, the victim must be able to prove the following elements of a negligence claim:
  1. You must be able to show that there was a duty requiring them to conform to a certain standard of conduct (i.e., a duty of care to other drivers);
  2. You must be able to demonstrate that the defendant breached this duty due to their negligence;
  3. You must have verifiable resulting injuries and monetary damages (e.g., sought medical treatment, received medical bills, lost wages, etc.); and
  4. You must show that said injuries and damages had a close causal connection with the alleged breach of duty.

The first element is easy to prove, as the standard of care for all drivers is simple: to ensure the safety and protection of others on the road through reasonable driving. All motorists have a duty to drive safely. To establish a breach of this duty, the plaintiff (victim) must show that the defendant(s) violated this duty of care by acting negligently (either by breaking the law and/or not providing a safe environment with their driving). Texting while driving absolutely creates an unsafe environment, and can be deemed as a breach of a driver's duty. This breach is even easier to prove now that it's officially against the law to text and drive in the Lone Star State. Additionally, your damages can be proven through medical records, hospital/doctor bills, property damage estimates, evidence of lost wages due to missing work, and more.

Proving causation, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. Ultimately, in order to satisfy this prong of your claim, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant(s)' negligent actions (or inactions) were the proximate cause of your accident and resulting pain/damages. Proving negligence is more complex than it might seem, and proving that the other driver was texting and driving at the time can be very challenging if the other driver does not admit to doing so.

Luckily, by hiring an attorney, you can subpoena the other driver's phone records in order to prove they were texting and driving at the time of the wreck. From that, your attorney can establish the negligence and causation elements of your claim. In fact, it's now pretty much standard procedure to obtain the cell phone records of the opposing party in most cases involving motor vehicle accidents.

At Montgomery Law, we understand the importance of building your case as well as how to prevail in a personal injury negligence claim. Not only do we want our clients to get every penny they deserve, we also want to hold accountable those who choose to put other's lives at risk due to texting while driving. It costs nothing out of pocket to hire an attorney to handle your own claim, and personal injury attorneys never collect a fee unless and until they win your case. For more information, call our Dallas car accident attorneys 24/7 at 1-833-720-6090. 

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