Santa Ana Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers
Every day, distracted drivers on Santa Ana roadways put people at risk for injury or death. When a distracted driver is involved in non-driving activities, they often operate their vehicles without noticing what’s going on right in front of them. Distracted drivers lack one or more of what the National Safety Council calls “The Essential Trio: Eyes on the road. Hands on the Wheel. Minds on Driving.”
During distracted moments, a driver’s attention is divided. That lack of focus often prevents them from seeing a problem or hearing the horns or tire screeches that could prevent an inevitable crash. Distraction contributes to severe accidents that cause serious and catastrophic injuries. Accident victims who survive a distracted driver’s loss of control sometimes live with the life-altering consequences. They often endure ongoing treatment, high medical bills, lost wages, and temporary or permanent impairments.
The Aitken * Aitken * Cohn Difference
Our Santa Ana personal injury lawyers have dedicated their careers to recovering damages for our injured clients. Through our years of experience, we’ve gained a comprehensive knowledge of complex California negligence issues. We understand the intricacies of navigating the Orange County court system. Our attorneys have witnessed how serious or catastrophic injuries caused our clients a lifetime of complications. We recognize that distracted drivers are negligent drivers and that they should pay for the injuries their actions caused. We’ve used our firm’s experience and resources to recover the damages our clients needed to live a better life.
Our Firm’s Results
At Aitken * Aitken * Cohn, we handle plaintiff’s cases only. We have dedicated our efforts to producing quality results for our clients. Our lawyers understand the nuances of case investigation, liability analysis, and damage evaluation. When possible, we have established a cooperative relationship with responsible parties and their insurance companies. When combined with aggressive negotiation strategies, our cooperative efforts have helped us resolve our clients’ injury claims through one-on-one interactions and Alternative Dispute Resolution. When necessary, we’ve presented our clients’ evidence before a judge and a jury.
While can’t promise a specific result, we always work toward the best possible outcome.
Our law firm is proud to have won both joint and several honors for our dedication, professional standards, and courtroom results. These include Top Lawyers of the Inland Empire by Inland Empire Magazine (third year in a row), Top Martindale-Hubbell AV Ratings, Best Law Firms, 2019 by U.S. News and World Report, and other prestigious honors.
Distracted Driving on California Roads
When a non-driving activity conflicts with what a motorist should be doing, it’s considered distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers it a risky driving behavior. While California doesn’t formally track distracted driving accidents, the California Office of Traffic Safety collects and analyzes related safety data. In a 2015 survey, 59.6 percent of the respondents reported having a near-miss accident with or being struck by a driver who was talking on a phone or texting.
NHTSA 2017 statistics document distracted driving as a causative factor in 3,166 auto accident fatalities and 420,000 injuries nationwide. Cell phones are one of the problems at the heart of this risky behavior. Hands-free cell phones are considered a safer option, but as the NSC distracted driving campaign warns, “Hands-Free is Not Risk-Free.”
Distracted Drivers Throughout the State
Findings in the 2018 California Distracted Driving report conclude that 4.57 percent of drivers on California roads and 4.65 percent of Orange County drivers are operating vehicles while distracted by digital devices. Observers reached this conclusion by monitoring 30,388 driver behaviors in counties throughout the state. They found several trends while observing drivers using hand-held, hands-free, or Bluetooth phones and also manipulating hand-held devices (usually texting.)
- More drivers were using digital devices than in the 2017 study (3.58 percent.)
- Device use was higher on local roads.
- Pick-up truck drivers used digital devices more than auto drivers.
- Drivers used digital devices more frequently when driving alone.
- Cell use was much lower when there were children in the car.
- Considering the potential for continuous device use during local trips, 4.57 percent is probably a low use estimate.
It’s Not Just About Cell Phones
Digital devices are a high-profile issue, but distracted driving was a problem long before cell phones gained popularity. An NHTSA report, Investigation and Prosecution of Distracted Driving, categorizes distractions as external and internal. Considering operator inexperience and inability to respond in an emergency, many distractions are particularly problematic for drivers under age 20.
External distractions: Any person, thing, or activity outside of the car that distracts a driver, is an external distraction. These include accidents, animals in the roadway, emergency vehicles, and other problems.
Internal distraction: The NHTSA explains that an internal distraction is anything inside the car that draws attention away from driving tasks.
- Visual distractions: Looking at something other than the road such as emergency vehicles, digital devices, or passengers
- Manual distractions: Taking hands off of the steering wheel during eating, adjusting vehicle controls, grooming, smoking, or other activities
- Cognitive distractions: Thinking about something other than driving such as financial or personal problems
- Combination distractions: An activity that involves more than one of the above distractions such as unrestrained pets, digital devices, etc
Distracted Drivers Cause Serious Injuries
The 2018 California Distracted Driving observations determined that digital device distraction occurs largely on local roads. Drivers making short trips and quick errand runs on local roads generate more accident-related injuries and fatalities per mile than highway drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Traffic Safety Board confirm that distracted driving is also a major cause of commercial vehicle accidents. These often involve large trucks which cause significantly more damage and injuries that private passenger vehicles.
Sometimes distracted drivers won’t notice an impending crash in time to slow down or stop. Even at moderate speeds when a driver makes no attempt to stop, the impact can be severe enough to cause fatalities. Those seriously or catastrophically injured in an auto accident often sustain medical conditions that require lifetime care. Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems determined that 51 percent of the 16,495 TBI patients in their database sustained brain injuries in vehicular accidents. Of the 32,727 patients tracked by the National Spinal Cord Statistical Center, vehicular accidents caused 31.3 percent of the injuries. Distracted driving accidents contribute to these injury numbers.
The most serious accident victims endure physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes. They live with temporary and permanent disabilities, lost income, and an unceasing stream of medical bills that often disrupts their finances. When a distracted driver causes an accident, the injured victims sometimes sustain one or more serious or catastrophic injuries.
- Spinal cord trauma
- Muscle sprains and strains
- Traumatic brain injury
- Muscle sprains and strains
- Disc and spine injuries
- Nerve damage
- Severe Burns
- Multiple fractures
- Traumatic amputations
- Internal organ damage
- Fatal injuries
Who Is Responsible When a Distracted Driver Causes an Accident?
Driver’s have a duty to drive safely and avoid actions that harm others. If they breach that duty and cause damage or injuries, they are negligent and owe for the damages they cause. Driving requires that a driver perform several simultaneous actions. It demands 100 percent of the operator’s attention. When a driver talks on a cell, argues with passengers, eats, smokes, or performs other non-driving related tasks, their negligent actions increase their chances of causing an accident. They are responsible for the consequences.
California statutes address distracted driving by banning certain digital devices. Chapter 11, Rules of The Road, §23123.5, prohibits hand-held cellphone-related activities while driving. Despite growing evidence that hands-free devices generate similar distractions, the law doesn’t ban hands-free or Bluetooth communication as yet. Even if an officer doesn’t cite a driver for breaking a cellphone law or other distracted driving actions, they are still responsible for their negligent acts.
The statues are important as they govern a driver’s actions and may prevent some accidents. They also motivate law enforcement officers to document and prosecute distracted driving events. These actions make it easier to prove negligence against a driver and other potentially responsible parties.
- Driver: A driver is responsible for his or her negligent acts, including distracted driving.
- Vehicle owner: Under California’s Financial Responsibility Laws, §1600-16078, a vehicle owner is legally responsible for acts involving their vehicle. An owner may also incur liability if they knew a driver had a poor driving record and let them drive anyway.
- Vehicle manufacturer: When a vehicle defect causes a driver’s negligent operation, the manufacturer may also be responsible.
- Repair or service company: When a company’s negligent maintenance or repairs trigger a distracted driving incident, a court could hold the company liable for damages.
- Other vehicles: If another driver created a distraction on the road such as cutting off a driver’s right of way or creating a disturbance, they might also be partially responsible.
What Types of Damages Can an Injured Person Recover From a Distracted Driver?
When Aitken * Aitken * Cohn has resolved our clients’ injury claims, we’ve recovered settlements based on three types of damages: economic, general, and punitive (or exemplary).
Economic damages reimburse an injured victim for costs paid for medical, therapy, and other out-of-pocket expenses. These also include future expenses and income losses as projected by an economist or a designated economic expert. Economic damages include these and other costs.
- Medical expenses
- Doctor bills
- Diminished earning capacity
- Income losses
- Mobility structures and devices
- Physical and psychological therapy
- Medical transportation expenses
- In-home replacement services
- Plastic surgery and scar revision
- Funeral and burial expenses
General damages compensate an injured victim for subjective losses that are often difficult to calculate. Settlements consider changes in a person’s physical and emotional health, appearance, lifestyle, and other issues. In calculating our clients’ general damage settlements, we’ve considered these and other factors.
- Pain and suffering
- Anguish and emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Diminished family relationships
- Loss of bodily function
- Permanent scars and disfigurement
- Permanent limitations and disabilities
- Lifestyle changes
An Orange County jury may award a plaintiff an amount for punitive or exemplary damages under California Civil Code §3294. A plaintiff must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant committed an act of “oppression, fraud, or malice.”
Can a Distracted Driver Defend a Negligence Case?
It’s hard to avoid the highly-publicized connection between distracted driving and accidents. Distracted drivers are negligent drivers. They cause accidents and serious injuries. When an insurance company refuses to negotiate their insured’s distracted driving claim in good faith, they’ve often made a choice to defend their insured based on other issues.
- No negligence: If a defendant can prove that they didn’t commit a negligent act, they can avoid paying a judgment for a plaintiff’s injuries.
- Comparative fault: California recognizes a pure comparative negligence standard. Insurance companies settle cases and courts award damages based on the understanding that more than one person can contribute to an accident. For example, if a defendant proves that a plaintiff with $10,000 in damages is 20 percent negligent, the court reduces the award by their negligence percentage. The plaintiff then receives $8,000. Under pure comparative negligence, an injured person can be 99 percent at fault and the defendant must still pay 1 percent of their damages.
- Damage mitigation: When liability issues are difficult to overcome, insurance companies and their defense attorneys sometimes defend based on damages. They try to mitigate a damage claim by proving that the defendant didn’t cause all of the plaintiff’s injuries.
- No defect: When an injured person or defendant alleges that a manufacturer produced a defective vehicle or component, the manufacturer avoids paying damages if they prove there was no defect.
At Aitken * Aitken * Cohn, our experience gives us an edge in defeating insurance company defense strategies. Long before we walk into a courtroom, our attorneys have reviewed the evidence and analyzed our clients’ legal options. We’ve always prepared our clients’ cases to produce the best possible outcomes.
Distracted Driver Accident Attorneys in Santa Ana
If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver in Santa Ana, you need a law firm with the dedication and experience to protect your legal interests. At Aitken * Aitken * Cohn, our Santa Ana Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers provide the legal guidance you need. We’ve produced the best possible results for our clients and we’d like to determine if we can help you. Call us at (714) 434-1424 or complete our contact form online to arrange a free consultation.