Filing a Claim After a Distracted Driving Accident in Florida

Jun 21, 2024 | Accidents, Truck Accidents

Distracted driving is among the leading causes of auto accidents in Florida. This includes collisions between passenger vehicles and collisions involving 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, or if your child or spouse has been seriously injured or killed in a distracted driving accident, you have clear legal rights. Distracted driving is negligent driving—and drivers (and their insurers) can be held liable for negligence under Florida law.

However, to file a successful claim for a distracted driving accident, you need proof that the driver was negligent behind the wheel. So, how do you prove distracted driving—and what else do you need to do to maximize your chances of recovering just compensation? Here’s what you need to know:

Understanding the Many Forms of Distracted Driving

First, it is important to understand that distracted driving can take many forms. While many distracted driving accidents involve handheld cell phone use, this is just one of numerous distractions that can lead to dangerous scenarios on Florida’s roads.

All forms of distracted driving can entitle accident victims and their families to just compensation. This includes (but is not limited to), common causes of auto and trucking accidents such as:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking on the phone
  • Talking to passengers
  • Texting
  • Using GPS and in-car touchscreens
  • Using social media
  • Watching videos or movies

If you have any reason to suspect that the driver who hit you (or your loved one) was distracted at the time of the collision, you should talk to a lawyer promptly. As we discuss below, while there may be several forms of evidence available to prove that the driver was distracted, collecting and using this evidence requires experienced legal representation.

Understanding the Risks (and Consequences) of Distracted Driving

All forms of distracted driving present similar risks. As a result, they can also have similar consequences. As the National Safety Council (NSC) explains in a white paper titled, Understanding the Distracted Brain, distractions cause four primary forms of impairment for drivers:

  • Auditory – Auditory distractions are those that require a driver to listen. When listening to something that requires focus (like an important phone call), drivers are less able to focus on sounds outside of their vehicle, and this puts them at greater risk for causing an accident.
  • Cognitive – Cognitive distractions are those that take a driver’s mind off of the task at hand. Talking, texting, reading, listening, and navigating are all examples of cognitive distractions that can significantly increase a driver’s risk of causing a serious or fatal accident.
  • Manual – Manual distractions are those that take a driver’s hands off of the wheel. Texting, setting GPS directions, eating, and drinking are all examples. When a driver’s hands aren’t on the wheel, the driver isn’t in a position to avoid a collision if necessary.
  • Visual – Visual distractions are those that take a driver’s eyes off of the road. At highway speeds, a vehicle can travel the length of a football field in the time it takes to read an average text message.

Any one of these forms of impairment can be enough to distract a driver and result in an accident that could—and should—have been avoided. But, when a distraction causes multiple forms of impairment (such as texting, watching videos, scrolling social media, or setting GPS directions), the risks of a distracted driver causing a serious or fatal accident are even greater. This is why distracted driving accidents are so common, and it is why distracted drivers can—and should—be held accountable.

How to Prove that a Distracted Driver Caused an Accident

As we said in the introduction, filing a claim for a distracted driving accident requires evidence of liability. This is no different from any other type of accident resulting from any other cause. Fortunately, there are several types of evidence that can be used to prove distracted driving; and, depending on the circumstances involved, accident victims and their families may have other options for recovering just compensation as well.

Types of Evidence Used to Prove Distracted Driving

How can you prove that the driver who hit you (or your loved one) was distracted? Determining what evidence is available requires a prompt and thorough investigation. When we investigate distracted driving accidents on behalf of our clients, we look for forms of evidence including (but not limited to):

The Police Report

If someone called 911 from the scene of the accident, the responding officer should have prepared a police report. The police report could contain several key pieces of information; and, if our client doesn’t have a copy of the report, we can obtain a copy on their behalf.

The Driver’s Cell Phone Records

If the at-fault driver was talking on the phone, texting, or using data at the time of the crash, our lawyers can subpoena the driver’s cell phone records to prove it. Cell phone records often serve as key evidence in serious and fatal distracted driving accident cases.

Vehicle Computer Data

Modern vehicles are equipped with computers that store extraordinary amounts of data. Along with speed and telemetry data, this frequently includes data about the use of touch screens and other in-car infotainment and navigation features.

Forensic Evidence from the Crash Site

Forensic evidence from the crash site can be used to help prove distracted driving in many cases as well. For example, if our investigator finds a drink cup or burger wrapper in the driver’s footwell, or if the driver’s phone appears to have been dropped during the crash, this could be useful for proving that the driver was distracted.

Testimony from Eyewitnesses

If any witnesses observed that the at-fault driver was distracted before or during the crash, their testimony could serve as key evidence in support of your claim as well. Drivers, passengers, and pedestrians can all serve as eyewitnesses in serious and fatal accident cases.

Footage of the Accident

If your (or your loved one’s) accident was caught on video, the footage of the accident could be the strongest evidence in support of your claim for just compensation. If the footage shows the driver using his or her phone, eating or drinking, or doing anything else besides focusing on the road ahead, the driver (and his or her insurer) may have no choice but to acknowledge what happened.

Social Media Posts

Social media posts can serve as evidence in distracted driving cases as well. If the at-fault driver admitted to causing the accident on Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok—or if any witnesses posted photos, videos, or comments about the crash—our lawyers can use these posts to help prove your legal rights.

Negligence Per Se in Texting-While-Driving Accidents

In cases involving texting-while-driving accidents, victims and their families can rely on the legal doctrine of “negligence per se.” While establishing a claim for negligence normally requires evidence that a driver’s mistake caused the victim’s injuries, when the doctrine of negligence per se applies, causation is presumed.

To constitute negligence per se, a driver’s mistake must violate Florida law. Fortunately, texting while driving has been illegal in Florida since 2019. As the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) explains:

“Section 316.305, Florida Statutes allows law enforcement to stop motor vehicles and issue citations to motorists that are texting and driving. A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers or symbols into a wireless communications device to text, email and instant message.”

Again, drivers’ cell phone records can be used to prove that they were texting at the time of a collision. If you have a claim against a texting driver, our lawyers can use the driver’s phone records to establish a claim based on negligence per se, and we can use our experience to fight for maximum compensation on your behalf.

Other Forms of Negligence in Distracted Driving Cases

Another important factor to keep in mind is that even if it isn’t possible to prove that the driver who hit you (or your loved one) was distracted, it may still be possible to prove another form of negligence. Distracted driving cases frequently involve speeding, tailgating, improper lane changes, red light violations, and other driving mistakes as well. All forms of negligence can entitle accident victims and their families to just compensation (and many driving mistakes constitute negligence per se)—so, regardless of whether there is evidence to prove distracted driving, it may still be possible to file a successful claim for just compensation.

Maximizing Your Chances of Recovering Just Compensation

If you have a claim for a distracted driving accident in Florida, there are some important steps you should try to take promptly in order to maximize your chances of recovering just compensation. Whether you were injured, your child or spouse was injured, or you are coping with the loss of a loved one, you should:

1. Preserve as Much Information as Possible
As soon as you can, you should write down everything you know about the accident. How did the accident happen? Why do you suspect the other driver was distracted? Were there any witnesses? Did the responding officer say anything noteworthy?
Along with taking detailed notes, you should also keep any evidence you have in your possession. If you have photos or videos from the crash site, keep all of them to share with your lawyer.

2. Make Sure the Insurance Companies Don’t Take Advantage of You
Any time you have a claim for an auto or truck accident, you need to be very careful to ensure that the insurance companies don’t take advantage of you. While you should report the accident to your insurer, you should also avoid saying anything that the insurance companies might be able to use to dispute liability. When in doubt, say “I don’t know.” Avoid making any assumptions, and let your lawyer do the majority of the talking.

3. Talk to a Lawyer Right Away
To ensure that your lawyer can collect as much evidence as possible, you should schedule an initial consultation right away. Recovering just compensation isn’t easy, and you will need an experienced lawyer on your side. At Silva & Silva, we provide free initial consultations for all auto and truck accident cases, and we do not charge any fees or costs unless we recover just compensation for our clients.

Discuss Your Distracted Driving Accident Claim with a Lawyer at Silva & Silva

Do you need to know more about filing a claim after a distracted driving accident in Florida? If so, we strongly encourage you to contact us right away. To speak with an experienced lawyer at Silva & Silva in confidence as soon as possible, call us at 305-445-0011 or request a free consultation online now.