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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

Florida personal injury lawyers



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    The Risks of Driving Distracted: A Guide for Florida Car Accident Victims

    How do you know the other driver in an accident was driving distracted? With DUIs, finding out whether someone was under the influence of drugs or alcohol may be easy, thanks to modern testing methods. 

    But what about driving distracted? Are there ways to prove someone wasn’t paying attention which led to an accident?

    Finding evidence of distracted driving is crucial in any car accident, especially when the accident leaves pedestrians or other drivers injured. In severe cases, carelessness behind the wheel can cost someone their life. 

    According to the CDC, more than 3,100 people in the United States were killed in accidents that involved at least one distracted driver in 2019. That same year, distracted drivers led to the injuries of more than 424,000 people. These statistics probably underestimate the actual results of DWD (driving while distracted).

    Here in Florida, hundreds of people are killed annually in accidents involving distracted drivers, making it one of the most dangerous driving environments in the country. 

    Victims of accidents caused by distracted driving deserve justice. By working with an expert personal injury lawyer, victims and their families can win compensation to cover medical costs, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, and other related costs. 

    Knowing the risk and causes of distracted driving will help you know whether you should pursue a personal injury claim after your accident. 

    Common Causes of Distracted Driving Car Accident Lawsuits

    Many states have or are implementing laws specific to preventing distracted driving. Many of them pertain to cell phone use because that’s the most obvious target. 

    The following behaviors are common and lead to distracted driving accidents in Florida and elsewhere:

    • Talking on the phone
    • Checking mobile apps
    • Texting
    • Entering navigation destinations
    • Playing music
    • Playing video games

    Of course, the phone isn’t the only reason for distracted driving. Here’s a look at some other ways drivers operate vehicles while distracted. 

    • Dealing with children – Kids can cause a lot of stress, especially when driving a car. However, responsible parents should manage their children and ensure they’re buckled into their seats at all times. Unfortunately, parents sometimes turn their heads to engage with their kids, pick up a toy, or give them a snack. 
    • Eating – Many people eat breakfast on the way to work or grab a quick snack at the gas station after filling up. While this isn’t illegal, it usually takes the driver’s focus away from the road, increasing the risk of an accident. 
    • Grooming – Whether brushing your hair or putting on makeup, it’s never a good idea to look into the vanity or rearview mirror when your eyes are on the street ahead of you. 
    • Changing Music – Most people enjoy listening to some music or a podcast while driving. However, changing music on the phone or dashboard takes your eyes off the road and could lead to an accident. 
    • Driving Tired – This is a bit different than the other causes, but driving tired is usually just as bad as driving drunk. You’re distracted because you’re focused on how you feel and slower to react to what’s in front of you. 
    • Distracting doggies – Many people travel with their pets and often they are not belted or harnessed.  Animals can distract and roam throughout the car, creating a distraction or physical impediment to driving.

    These are just some of the ways people drive distracted. Anything that takes focus off safely operating a vehicle could cause an accident. 

    Signs of Distracted Driving

    Over a quarter of American teens admit they text and drive. Almost half of the teens say they’ve been in the car when someone is texting. Over three-quarters of teens say they’ve read a text message while driving. Those numbers are astounding, particularly when you understand how much activities like texting or opening a social media app affect brain activity and one’s ability to pay attention to driving conditions. 

    How does using a phone or turning to talk to kids affect driving performance? Here are ways distracted driving impacts drivers:

    • Lane drifting
    • Inability to stop quickly
    • Failure to see stop signs and light changes
    • Speeding
    • Failure to yield
    • Failure to notice pedestrians
    • Jerky movements

    Seeing any of these signs on the road clearly warns that other drivers and pedestrians should take extreme caution. But unfortunately, people rarely have enough time to get away before something bad happens. 

    People usually tell themselves they’re looking down at the phone or taking their hands off the wheel to text a friend for just a second. One second is all it takes to kill someone or cause catastrophic injuries with distracted driving. 

    Holding Drivers Accountable with Distracted Driving Lawsuits

    You can hold a distracted driver accountable for injuries or wrongful death if you or someone you know is in a car accident. 

    By working with an experienced attorney, you can collect evidence and build a case that proves they were driving distracted and caused the accident. 

    They’ll look for clues as to whether the other drivers involved were doing something else when they should have been focused on the road. For example, a skilled attorney may:

    • Look for cellphone records to see call and activity logs
    • Check cell phone apps to see whether they reveal use of apps or other cell phone activity at the time
    • See if there was any food or drink in the car at the time of the accident
    • Find out if the driver was applying makeup, hair gel, or any other products just before the accident
    • View video camera surveillance to look for obvious signs of distracted driving, like failure to stop or drifting into other lanes.

    Successful personal injury law firms have the resources to track down evidence and prove the accident wasn’t your fault. When someone gets out of the car and claims they didn’t do anything wrong, that’s not always the case. 

    Can I Seek Damages in a Florida Distracted Driving Lawsuit?

    Florida was one of the last states to adopt a texting-while-driving ban. Today, it’s still perfectly legal for drivers to pick up the phone and hold it to their ears while they drive at any speed in any conditions. 

    The obvious challenge is that it’s impossible to know whether someone is speaking on the phone to a relative or scrolling through Facebook. 

    As a result, enforcement remains very difficult. Police can fine people for texting, but how can they tell if someone’s texting or talking on speakerphone?

    Currently, distracted driving accident victims can seek damages for:

    • Medical costs
    • Lost income
    • Therapy
    • Property damage
    • Pain & Suffering
    • Disability
    • & other costs related to the accident

    However, victims have no ability to seek punitive damages under Florida Law. John Leighton, however, is using his influence as one of the country’s preeminent personal injury attorneys to advocate for allowing punitive damages. This would give distracted driving accident victims a similar recourse to drunk driving victims. 

    Mr. Leighton believes increased civil justice system activity is the only way to discourage and prevent distracted driving accidents. The current safe driving mode in applications and public awareness campaigns aren’t doing the trick. 

    Settlements & Judgments in Distracted Driving Lawsuits

    Despite civil legal limitations, Leighton Law is still setting industry standards regarding helping victims win compensation after car accident injuries or deaths. Here are some examples of how he’s helped his clients:

    Leighton Law won a $6,000,000 settlement for a Florida couple after a commercial truck driver left his lanes and plowed through the husband, killing him. The driver was distracted by his phone and not paying attention to the road. 

    In a separate case, John Leighton won a $450,000 settlement for a client critically injured in a distracted driving accident. The victim was sitting in the back of a car in traffic when the car behind failed to stop, colliding with them and causing injuries. After the accident, the driver at fault showed that he was on his phone and had a laptop open in the passenger seat at the time of the crash. 

    Knowing how much to seek in damages requires years of car accident lawsuit expertise. The team at Leighton Law considers all factors, like how an injury will impact the victim’s quality of life, career, and long-term care. 

    Leighton Law: Leading the Charge for Florida Distracted Driving Victims

    John Leighton is an ardent supporter of distracted driving laws. But unfortunately, the laws we have now in Florida fail to properly address the risks of distracted driving and the harm it causes its victims. 

    Accidents caused by distracted drivers ruin lives here daily. A glance at a phone or looking down at a mapping app can cost someone their life. In many cases, accident victims must deal with the long-term effects of someone else’s mistake. They’ll never work the same jobs or play the same sports. 

    The speed at which distracted driving became an issue requires greater attention from lawmakers, software companies, phone manufacturers, and people on the roads. 

    By imposing punitive damages in distracting driving lawsuits, the government can emphasize the severity of the situation. These aren’t innocent mistakes. Drivers know better and consciously put themselves and others at risk. 

    Until the laws change, victims must operate inside the current system by seeking the maximum compensation allowed after an accident. If a distracted driver impacts you or someone you love, contact us for a free consultation to plan what to do next. 

    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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