April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a government initiative to reduce the number of car accidents caused by inattentiveness on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at least 3,000 people are killed annually in car accidents where distraction is a major contributing factor, and tens of thousands more suffer injuries.
The emphasis of Distracted Driving Awareness Month is on the use of cellphones and other mobile devices. Both in their handheld and hands-free varieties, these are powerful distractions, slowing down reaction times and causing drivers to fail to attend to pedestrians and other vehicles, traffic signs, road hazards, and their own driving behavior.
Recently, the government released a short ad showing how easily an accident can occur when drivers divide their attention between a mobile device and their own driving. The actors in the ad are teenagers, a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to vehicular accidents. They’re also highly likely to be using mobile devices as they drive.
Involvement in a distracted-driving accident in DC
In DC, there’s a ban for all drivers on the use of handheld devices and on texting while driving. Novice drivers and bus drivers also aren’t permitted to use hands-free cellphones.
However, you still have drivers who violate these laws. If you’re involved in an accident caused by another driver’s distraction while using a cell phone or texting, what options do you have for obtaining compensation for any medical bills and property damages afterwards?
Because DC has adopted a no-fault insurance system, your first recourse is with your own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. However, there are some circumstances where you can bring a suit against the other driver. These include the following:
• You have substantial medical bills that exceed the benefits that you could receive from your own insurance company.
• You’re struggling with long-term (at least 180 days) or permanent impairments to your ability to perform day-to-day tasks. You need to have medical proof of this.
• The injuries you’ve suffered are permanently disfiguring in more than a relatively minor way.
On top of these considerations, you also need to determine if you share some fault in the accident. Because DC follows the principle of contributory fault, if you’re deemed in any way responsible for the accident – even in part – then you can’t hold another person responsible for it.
These are all issues to discuss with an experienced DC accident lawyer. When you contact your lawyer, you will be able to review your case thoroughly and receive legal advice and advocacy.
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