Distracted Driver Caused Your Accident: Can You Sue? 

When a distracted driver hits and injures you, you’re understandably upset. After all, you’ve been wronged, and now you’re facing the fallout of a serious injury

Fortunately, our Orange County car accident lawyer adds, here are several ways in which you can recover the compensation you need to cover your costs and begin rebuilding your life. 

In addition to filing a claim with the distracted driver’s insurance company, you may also have the opportunity to file a lawsuit against them. Here’s more about what you can expect from a distracted driving lawsuit and negotiations with the insurance company.

two people driving while distracted in california

When to File a Lawsuit for a Distracted Driving Crash

You may not be sure whether you have the right to file a lawsuit following a distracted driving accident. To have grounds for a claim, you and your attorney must demonstrate that the elements of negligence are present in the case:

  • Duty of care. Your lawyer will need to show that the defendant owed you a duty of care. Fortunately, all drivers owe other drivers and passengers a duty of care in operating their vehicles safely.
  • Breach of duty. Your attorney will need to introduce evidence that shows the defendant breached their duty of care. Distracted driving would be considered a breach of the duty of care, as any other reasonable person would understand the risks of distracted driving.
  • Causation. The defendant’s distracted driving must have been the cause of your car accident and resulting injuries. Your attorney can introduce compelling evidence to support your case, such as cell phone records to prove the driver was texting while driving.
  • Damages. You must have suffered damages that have had a considerable impact on your life, whether the impact is emotional, physical, financial, or a combination of these.

Common Distractions That Cause Car Accidents

There are three primary types of distracted driving: manual distractions, visual distractions, and cognitive distractions.

Manual Distractions

Manual distractions require drivers to take their hands off the wheel. This might occur when they are attempting to utilize their vehicle’s navigation system, reach for their phone, or change the song they were listening to. Manual distractions are known for slowing reaction time.

Visual Distractions

Visual distractions take drivers' eyes off the road. This could include looking at their passenger, turning their eyes from the road to another collision, or any other distraction that causes them to lose awareness of their immediate surroundings. 

Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions take a driver's mind off of driving. Daydreaming, arguing with a vehicle passenger, or even singing along to the music playing can be considered cognitive distractions. Cognitive distractions are often more likely to cause collisions at higher rates of speed when drivers are so distracted that they fail to slow down prior to impact.

How Distracted Driving Accident Claims Work

If you are interested in moving forward with a distracted driving accident claim but are feeling intimidated by the process, you are not alone. And if you understand more about what to expect from your claim, you may feel more confident. 

Here’s a general idea of what you can expect once you decide to seek compensation for your distracted driving collision:

  • Once you hire an attorney, your attorney will begin investigating the collision.
  • Evidence will need to be gathered to prove the distracted driver’s liability in your case.
  • Your lawyer will need to go over your damages to accurately calculate the value of your claim.
  • After that, it will be time to file a claim with the distracted driver’s insurance company and negotiate a fair settlement offer.
  • If the insurance company offers a settlement that meets your needs, your case will be resolved once you accept it.
  • If the insurance company will not offer a fair settlement, your case may need to advance to trial.
  • At trial, your lawyer will present a strong case for why you deserve full compensation for every way in which the distracted driver harmed you.

What to Expect from the Insurance Company

The vast majority of distracted driving accident claims include dealing with the insurance company. California is a fault state for car accidents and insurance purposes. When you are involved in an accident caused by distracted driving, you may file a claim with the distracted driver’s auto insurance company, provided they have purchased insurance as required by law.

Once you file a claim with a distracted driver’s insurance company, it will be time to negotiate. However, insurance companies are profit-driven and will look for every opportunity to reduce your compensation or deny your distracted driving accident claim entirely. 

Do not be surprised if the insurance company attempts to place a portion of blame for the accident on you in the hopes of reducing their financial liability. California comparative negligence laws allow injury victims’ settlements to be reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault. 

Recoverable Damages in Distracted Driving Accident Lawsuits

When a distracted driver turns your life upside-down, you have the right to be awarded compensation for every way your injuries have affected your life. That means you deserve compensation for both your economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are financial. They have fixed monetary values. Some examples include the following:

  • Costs of increased insurance premiums
  • Current and future medical costs and fees
  • Loss of income and future potential earnings
  • Costs of repairing or replacing your vehicle

Non-economic damages describe the ways your life has been impacted by the accident or your injuries. They do not have a direct financial value, but an attorney can help you assign a monetary value to their effects on your life. Some examples of non-economic damages include the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Emotional distress

Contact an attorney to discuss your damages in greater detail and learn how much your distracted driving accident lawsuit may be worth.

Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law