The dangers of texting and driving are widespread knowledge, yet unfortunately many drivers on the road today continue to text while driving. Aside from the catastrophic injuries that texting and driving can cause, one Florida driver is seeing the side-effects in a $4.3 million judgment.
Cacilia Carter from Bunnell, Florida was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her then-boyfriend on December 20, 2010. That boyfriend was texting and driving and completely missed a stop sign. The result – a tractor trailer collided into the passenger side of the vehicle leaving Ms. Carter in a coma for three weeks. Her road to recovery was rough and continues today. She is permanently impaired and disabled. A Judge in Flagler County Circuit Court awarded Ms. Carter a $4.3 million judgment for her injuries against the distracted driver, her then-boyfriend.
In Florida, evidence of distracted driving, including being on a cell phone can be admissible to show negligence by the driver. In certain circumstances, this evidence can be used to make a claim for punitive damages – damages to punish the party to deter from future similar action or conduct. There has been a strong push to allow for punitive damages in auto-accident cases where the driver was texting.
According to the Department of Transportation, sending a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds (approximately the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour). And drivers who text message are twenty-three times more likely to be involved in a collision than if not texting. Furthermore, a study from the University of Utah suggests that drivers using the cell phone may be as impaired as intoxicated drivers.
Similarly, since the Florida legislature passed 316.305, making texting while driving a secondary noncriminal traffic infraction, evidence of distraction coupled with testimony regarding the misconduct makes punitive damage claims more appeal. Every driver knows of the risks associated with taking their eyes of the road, and every driver should know of the risks associated with texting while driving. In order to protect yourself and others on the road, do not text and drive, instead pull over. If you are involved in an auto accident that was caused by someone that was texting and driving, make sure you include that information when speaking with a personal injury attorney, as it could positively impact your claim.
Visit the End Distracted Driving Program at www.endDD.org for more information the dangers of distracted driving and how you can help educate others and make our roadways safer.