Distracted Driving And The Legal Problems It Creates

Posted on 12/29/2015

By now, we all know that texting and driving is a dangerous thing.  In fact, brain scan studies have confirmed what doctors have suspected for years: people are only capable of focusing on one thing at a time.  In other words, people cannot be focused on driving and also be focused on sending a text message or making a call.

We have all heard a horror story of a teen or even a more mature driver texting and causing a fender bender, serious accident, or even a fatal accident.  But texting and driving is just one of many situations that create hazardous distracted driving conditions.  These days, people do all sorts of things while driving that can lead to distraction: talking on the phone, typing addresses into GPS, changing radio stations, reading, listening to headphones, or even just having a conversation with other people in the car.

It is no surprise that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 3,000 people die every year due to distracted driving.  With the presence of technology continuing to rise, it will be no surprise if the number of deaths from distracted driving also continues to rise.

Many states have enacted laws that deal with distracted driving.  The laws vary widely from state to state.  In Ohio, there is a statewide ban on text messaging by all drivers.  For driver’s under the age of 18, the use of portable electronic devices is completely prohibited.  In all jurisdictions, cell phone use at the time of a traffic accident is admissible as evidence of negligence, and some jurisdictions have even found that use of a cell phone at the time of a traffic accident in violation of a statute is “negligence per se” such that the driver will be automatically at fault.

Accessing a driver’s cell phone records can be tricky.  Courts have held that the plaintiff in a car accident case is not authorized to directly subpoena a defendant’s cell phone records.  Rather, the plaintiff must submit a cell phone records release to the defendant which the defendant must sign and then return to the plaintiff, who can then submit the release to the cell phone provider an get the records.  There are often disputes over how broad the release should be.  The defendant often argues that it would be a violation of his or her privacy to execute a broad release, while the plaintiff often argues that he or she is entitled to see exactly what the other driver was seeing on his or her cell phone at the time leading up to the accident.

There is no doubt that plaintiffs will remain aggressive when it comes to accessing cell phone records.  This is because proving that the defendant driver was distracted at the time of the accident can be a critical link in proving the plaintiff’s case, especially when there is a disputed liability situation.

Here at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC, one of our top priorities for our Ohio lawyers in every suspected distracted driving case is to access the wireless records of the defendant driver.  These records often reveal texts and phone calls taking place seconds before the accident, and such records are obviously effective in proving that the defendant was liable for the accident.