What makes a responsible driver? At the most basic level, we should all make sure that our attention is focused on the road in front of us while we’re behind the wheel. When you’re driving a piece of machinery that weighs thousands of pounds, even a distraction of a few seconds has the potential to cause a serious accident with permanent consequences. But unfortunately, far too many drivers fail to dedicate their full attention to the road and give in to distractions like cell phone use, eating, grooming, and more.
When one of these drivers causes an auto accident, other motorists who are injured in the accident may be curious about their legal rights and how they can recover the financial compensation they need and deserve. In some cases, these victims may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the driver’s insurance company.
When Can You Sue For An Auto Accident In New York?
New York is a no-fault insurance state, which means that economic damages like medical expenses and lost wages are covered by your insurance company regardless of who caused the accident. However, there are circumstances in which additional financial compensation is available by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver and their insurance company.
In order to have grounds for a lawsuit after being injured by a distracted driver, you must establish two things:
- Negligence – You and your lawyer must prove that another driver caused the accident by acting negligently. Any failure to follow the rules of the road or drive safely may constitute negligence. Driving while distracted qualifies as negligence, as the driver is failing to follow the basic rules of keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.
- Serious injuries – Victims of preventable auto accidents may only file lawsuits if they suffered one or more serious injuries during the accident. A serious injury is defined as any injury which limits your ability to engage in daily life activities following the accident. Some examples of serious injuries include broken bones, the loss of the use of a body part, significant disfigurement, the loss of an unborn child, and death.
The no-fault insurance system makes car accident liability more complex compared to other states without this system. In order to determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit, you’ll need to discuss the details of your accident and injuries with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Three Types Of Distracted Driving
There are three broad categories of distracted driving:
A manual distraction is anything that causes a driver to take one or both hands away from the wheel. Some common examples include:
- Eating and drinking
- Looking through a purse or wallet
- Adjusting a child’s seatbelt
While we’re not saying that you should never change your radio station or adjust the temperature, there are smarter ways to go about it. For example, wait until you’re at a stop light or stop sign before taking your hand off the wheel for these tasks. Taking a hand off the wheel while the vehicle is in motion greatly increases the risk of causing an accident.
Visual distractions are anything that causes you to take your eyes off of the road, such as:
- Searching for objects on the floor, in the backseat, in the glove compartment, etc.
- Operating the GPS
- Changing the radio station
- Adjusting heating or air conditioning
- Grooming, applying makeup, etc.
These visual distractions can be avoided by preparing yourself for your trip before you begin driving. For instance, you can make sure your route is ready to go in the GPS, have preset radio stations so you only need to press one button for a change, and make sure the temperature is comfortable before you begin driving (or wait until you’re stopped to make adjustments).
Cognitive distractions cause drivers to lose their mental focus while behind the wheel. Examples include:
- Talking to passengers
- Road rage
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Dwelling on stressful or upsetting subjects
Some driving distractions involve multiple forms. For instance, texting while driving takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes of the road, and distracts you mentally as you’re focused on writing or reading the text instead of your surroundings.
Filing A Lawsuit After Being Injured By A Distracted Driver
If you or someone you loved has been seriously injured in an accident you believe was caused by a distracted driver, you should consider exploring your legal options as soon as possible. In the aftermath of the accident, the cause may not be clear right away. Determining fault often requires a thorough investigation by an experienced personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer can investigate the scene of the accident, collect evidence, interview witnesses, and represent you through all legal proceedings.
Serious injuries often result in unmanageable medical bills and serious life interruptions, such as extended periods away from work. The related expenses for these injuries can quickly become too much for most families to handle financially. Personal injury lawsuits are often the only way victims of serious car accidents can recover the financial compensation they need and deserve for these personal and financial setbacks.
To learn more about your legal rights as the victim of a distracted driving accident, get in touch with our Bronx personal injury lawyers today for a free consultation.