If you said the words “texting while driving” 15 years ago, you would likely have been met with a puzzled look. Most people back then would have said, What is that? But now, this phrase is quite commonly understood because it has shined light on the tragic consequences of distracted driving. People have been driving while distracted for years, long before smartphones existed. Whenever you search for something, put on makeup, or mess with the radio while behind the wheel, you are driving while distracted. But the smartphone era brought the serious nature and consequences of taking your eyes or mind off the road for even a few seconds into public awareness. Indeed, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration reports that 3,142 people died in America in 2019 due to distracted driving. This represents a 9.9% increase over the 2,858 souls who lost their lives due to distracted driving in 2018. And these numbers do not even touch the tens of thousands who were injured but not killed.
But if a distracted driver caused an accident that injured you, how do you prove they were distracted at the time of the incident? The truth is that a single piece of evidence will likely not be enough. You need to gather as many different types of evidence as you can that come together to indicate driver distraction. Working with an experienced auto collision legal practitioner is the best way to ensure that you leave no stone unturned in your search for evidence. They know how to weave evidentiary threads together to strengthen your case and get you the money you need to move forward with your life. But let’s look at some actions you can take to help prove driver distraction in a personal injury claim.
Probably the best evidence of distracted driving is a confession. After an accident, emotions run high, and no one has likely spoken to a lawyer yet. In the rush of excitement, it is not uncommon for drivers to spontaneously apologize and admit that the accident was their fault. For instance, the driver may blurt out something like, “I’m so sorry! I got a text and didn’t even see you!” If they say something like this, be sure to tell the officer who comes to the scene. It is even better if the driver admits this to the officer themselves, but they may not. And remember that an admission is not a guarantee. The person may recant their statement later, especially if they speak with an attorney. So even if you heard an admission, continue looking for other evidence that will bolster your claim.
Look for Evidence
First and foremost, take care of yourself. If the crash injured you, do not try to get up and search for evidence because that may aggravate your injuries. No one wants that. If you insist on getting up and performing any of these suggested actions when injured, a judge may hold you partially responsible for aggravating your injuries. So take care of yourself first. However, if the crash did not injure you or a passenger, you can do a little detective work at the crash scene.
If you suspect something distracted the driver, take a look around the scene for evidence. For instance, maybe there is a makeup bag open on the front passenger seat, which could mean the driver was applying makeup when they hit you. Or maybe there are fast food containers near the driver that indicate they were eating when the accident occurred. Even a cell phone in the front seat can suggest that they were on a call or texting. If you see any indications of distraction, simply take a photo of it and show your attorney later.
Police reports can be a good source of information. Police reports typically include the names and contact information of any witnesses from the scene. While police do not always do an extensive investigation at a car crash scene (unless injuries are severe or someone died), their training teaches them to look for distracted driving signs. Police will also take statements from the driver, so if admissions are in the actual police report, that is always helpful.
While the police may talk to witnesses, there are times they may not be as thorough as you would hope. So if you or someone else at the scene is able, they should try to get names and contact information for any eyewitnesses. Or you can politely ask the police to speak to any witnesses that you know of. Eyewitness testimony of driver distraction can be the glue that ties together all other evidence collected at the scene.
Phone and Other Electronic Records
Obtaining cell phone records is not the quickest or easiest thing to do, but can be critical to your case. Have your attorney request the records. But be aware that your attorney may need to issue a subpoena for the records if the cell company won’t voluntarily release them. This process can take time, so get started early.
It is also possible that nearby businesses have surveillance video cameras that caught the accident on tape. This footage may or may not be the proverbial “smoking gun” that you need to prove distraction, but it is worth attempting to view this footage. But be aware that businesses erase such footage regularly; some even erase it daily. So you cannot afford to waste any time gathering it.
Call an Experienced Auto Vehicle Accident Attorney
The experienced attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC know how to prove driver distraction in an injury claim. We’ve represented numerous clients in similar cases, and we know how to build a solid foundation to get you the compensation you deserve. And time is of the essence. Do not wait until video surveillance evidence gets erased or until the subpoena process interferes with a prompt settlement. Call or contact us online to set up a free initial consultation, and get your case started today.