dis·tract·ed driv·ing: the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity, typically one that involves the use of a cellular phone or other electronic device.
Increased reliance on electronic mobile devices has led to a rise in automobile accidents resulting from “distracted driving.” In 2014 alone, 3,179 people died in distracted driving accidents, based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) criteria. Skeptics believe the number may be much higher. For instance, the National Safety Council works with people who lost loved ones in crashes that involved driver cell phone use. During conversations with the families, an alarming pattern emerged: For many, the crash reports did not reflect the drivers’ cell phone use although cell phone involvement was apparent. The National Safety Council ultimately concluded that “There is strong evidence to support that under-reporting of driver cell phone use in crashes is resulting in a substantial under-estimation of the magnitude of this public safety threat.”
One of the first steps of any car accident injury case is to determine whether the negligent driver was using a cell phone at the time of the accident. Occasionally, this information will be contained in the accident report or from statements taken from witnesses of the accident. More often, however, this information can only be obtained by requesting the negligent driver’s phone records through a business records subpoena.
Evidence of the negligent driver’s cell phone use at the time of the accident can greatly increase the value of the injured party’s claim because courts, in an effort to curb the epidemic of distracted driving, have started awarding punitive damages to injury victims.