Distracted drivers kill tens of thousands of people every year. Contrary to popular myth, hand-held cell phones only account for a fraction of these fatalities.
The reason lies in the laws – many states have only limited cell phone bans. Also, these bans are often sporadically enforced. Instead, the problem is much more widespread than just holding a phone while driving.
To account fully for the range of issues, and to obtain compensation for these crash victims, Rockford personal injury attorneys have basically two legal options. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses – such as medical bills and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. In some extreme cases, additional punitive damages may be available as well.
Distracted Driving and Negligence Per Se
Illinois has one of the broadest cell phone bans in the country. The law prohibits all hand-held cell phone use, except in emergencies. Additionally, drivers younger than 19 cannot use any cell phone technology at all, even a Bluetooth speaker or a hands-free device. Once again, some limited exceptions apply.
So, in Winnebago County, cell phone negligence per se claims are a bit more common than in other states. According to this doctrine, tortfeasors (negligent drivers) might be liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety law, like the cell phone ban, and
- That violation substantially causes a crash.
There is no need to prove negligence, or a lack of care. It does not matter how carefully, or how carelessly, the tortfeasor was operating at the time. In this context, a crash and a ticket are usually enough.
Distracted Driving and Ordinary Negligence
As mentioned, hand-held cell phones only address part of the problem. meaning, Illinois’ cell phone ban, as broad as it is, only addresses part of the problem.
There are many other forms of distracted driving, which are almost as dangerous. Hands-free phones are a good example. These gadgets are not as distracting as hand-held phones, but they are almost as distracting. Users take their eyes off the road and take their minds off driving. Furthermore, hands-free devices give many drivers a false sense of security. Even though they are distracted, they take more chances behind the wheel.
Other forms of distracted driving include eating while driving, talking to passengers and drinking while driving.
To establish liability in these situations, victim/plaintiffs must prove negligence, which is a lack of ordinary care. Some useful evidence in distracted driving claims includes:
- Hands-free call logs,
- Erratic driving prior to the crash,
- Hands-free text message records, and
- Statements from the tortfeasor’s passengers.
Much of this evidence is physical evidence. Attorneys must act quickly to preserve such proof. Otherwise, the tortfeasor may “accidentally” delete important records. A spoliation letter creates a legal duty to preserve all physical evidence for trial.
The victim/plaintiff must establish ordinary negligence by a preponderance of the proof (more likely than not). That’s the lowest burden of evidence in Illinois law.
Count on Experienced Attorneys
Distracted driving car crash victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. We routinely handle matters in Winnebago County and nearby jurisdictions.