Distracted driving is a huge factor in injury accidents in West Virginia. If you’ve been injured in a crash caused by another driver, there’s a good chance they weren’t paying attention to the road or traffic. If that’s true, you may have a right to seek compensation from the at-fault party through a car accident claim. An attorney from Robinette Legal Group, PLLC can help you do it.
Our award-winning West Virginia personal injury firm has a history of successfully pursuing the financial recovery our clients need after they’ve been harmed by someone else’s wrongdoing. Our founder is a lifetime member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and his focus is to get justice for our clients. Call us today for a free consultation about your distracted driving accident case.
Legal Definition of Distracted Driving
The West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) defines distracted driving as any action that takes the driver’s attention away from driving. While texting and driving is one of the best-known types of distracted driving, the DMV also cites drinking and eating, adjusting the radio, using the GPS, or even talking to other people in the car or on the phone as driving distractions.
West Virginia Distracted Driving Laws
West Virginia law requires drivers to pay attention and exercise due care while driving. The law prohibits drivers from holding or using a smartphone or similar electronic device while driving. However, there is an exception for hands-free technology.
Distracted Driving Statistics in WV
Here are some eye-opening distracted driving statistics from the DMV:
- In a recent four-year period, there was an annual average of 279 fatal traffic accidents in the state, and 69 of them involved a distracted driver.
- About 660,000 Americans engage in distracted driving at any moment.
- 8 percent of U.S. drivers aged 15 to 19 involved in fatal collisions were reported as driving distracted.
Common Distractions While Driving
Texting and driving is one of the most commonly known types of driving distractions, but it’s not the only one. Distractions while driving can be divided into three types: cognitive, manual, and visual.
Cognitive distractions occur when you take your mind off the task of driving. That could be when you’re:
- Singing along to music
- Thinking about what to reply in an email or social media post
- Talking to other passengers in your car
- Trying to break up an argument between children in your car
Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel. Those include:
- Eating or drinking
- Programming a GPS or adding a stop on your route
- Queuing up a podcast or playlist on a streaming service
- Putting on makeup or adjusting clothing
- Typing a text or email
- Taking a video or picture
- Scrolling social media or commenting on someone else’s social media post
Visual distractions are those that take your eyes off the road. These can include:
- Reading a text
- Reading the GPS
- Looking around the car for something
- Reading a billboard
- Looking at yourself in the mirror
Using a smartphone or tablet can involve all three types of driving distractions, which makes it exceptionally dangerous.
What To Do After a Serious Car Accident in WV?
What you do in the hours, days, and weeks after a distracted driving collision can make a big difference in the outcome of any insurance claim or lawsuit you file. Right after the crash, you likely called 911 and requested EMS and police response. You probably also got medical treatment. If not, you should go to your doctor as soon as possible. Even if you don’t feel hurt, a medical exam can detect any injuries that don’t show symptoms immediately. Additionally, your medical records document the extent and severity of your injuries and link them to the collision, which is important for proving that you deserve compensation for the treatment.
Your next step is to contact a West Virginia car accident attorney. They can advise you about whether you have a claim and how to pursue the compensation you deserve. If the other driver was using their phone or otherwise violating WV distracted driving laws and caused the crash, they may be liable for any injuries and losses you suffered. An attorney can explain how to seek money for your medical bills, lost wages from work, pain and suffering, and lower quality of life.
You should keep a journal about the accident and your injury’s impact on your life, noting what activities you can no longer do, whether you’re able to continue in your job, and your levels of pain and suffering. Your pain journal may be used as evidence to support your claim.
Also, stay off social media. Even though your post may be meant to reassure your friends that you’re okay, an insurance adjuster could use your post to devalue your claim. Don’t risk it.
Can You Prove the Other Driver Was Distracted?
Proving the other driver was distracted may be more difficult than you think. By the time the police arrive, they could have hung up the phone, eaten their sandwich, or put away the lipstick, leaving no immediate evidence of being distracted. However, an experienced car accident attorney may use a few different tactics to show the driver wasn’t paying attention to the road, such as:
- Their own dashcam evidence – Some dashcam models can record audio in the vehicle in addition to external video. The dashcam may have picked up conversations in the car that show the driver was talking to a passenger or making a social media post.
- Phone records – Your attorney may subpoena the driver’s phone records to show they were using the phone in non-hands-free mode while driving. The records could contain text logs indicating sent or read messages or time stamps on social media messages. Or their phone could show when certain apps were in use, which may indicate the driver was using the app while driving.
- Witness testimony – Perhaps the driver’s passengers testify that the driver wasn’t paying attention to the road. A credible witness can go a long way to supporting your claim.
- The vehicle’s event data recorder (EDR) – A “black box” is installed on almost all newer vehicles. It records the vehicle’s actions, including events leading up to a collision. It may indicate that the car stopped suddenly or that they didn’t take evasive maneuvers to avoid an accident.
- The driver’s social media activity – This could prove that the driver was using social media while driving.
Legal Options for Victims of Distracted Driving Accidents
What are your options after being hit by a distracted driver? If they were breaking the law, the responding officer might have issued them a citation. But how does this help you pay your medical bills or fix your car?
You could file a claim with their insurance company, seeking a settlement to cover your losses. If the damage was minimal and you weren’t hurt badly, then that may be enough. However, it may end up being your word against the other driver’s. They may have agreed to you filing a claim when talking at the accident scene, but maybe they changed their mind and told their insurance carrier that you caused the wreck.
Your best bet to protect your interests and help you pursue fair compensation is to talk to a distracted driving attorney. They can evaluate your case and determine whether you’re entitled to file a claim against the other driver’s insurer. Having a lawyer shows the other driver and their insurance company that you’re serious about securing the money you are owed. And if they refuse to settle for an amount that covers the full extent of your losses, your attorney can file a personal injury lawsuit to demand the financial recovery you deserve.
Damages You May Recover After a Car Accident in West Virginia
A West Virginia car accident lawsuit allows you to seek compensation for the losses you suffered because of the crash, such as:
- Past, present, and future medical care, including hospital stays, surgery, and prescription medications
- Rehabilitative care, like physical or occupational therapy
- Medical devices, like a wheelchair, prosthesis, or a neck brace
- Lost wages if you missed work to heal from your injuries
- Loss of earning potential if you can only work part-time now or cannot continue in your same line of work
- Pain and suffering from your injuries
- Psychological or emotional trauma
- Loss of enjoyment of life
A skilled West Virginia car accident lawyer can calculate the value of your expenses and losses to ensure that you pursue fair compensation that will help you make a full recovery.
Deadline to File a Distracted Driving Car Accident Claim
The West Virginia statute of limitations gives an injured party two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If you file after the deadline passes, the court can dismiss your case without hearing it.
Talk to an Experienced Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer in West Virginia Today
Have you been hurt in an accident with an inattentive driver? The team at Robinette Legal Group, PLLC can help you seek compensation from the negligent driver to cover your medical care and other losses from the wreck. Contact our firm today for a free consultation with a West Virginia distracted driving lawyer.