Texting While Driving Accidents: Personal Injury Claims and Compensation

Here’s how to maximize your compensation for injuries from a texting and driving accident. Build a strong personal injury claim and get a fair insurance settlement.

Texting while driving is perhaps the most dangerous form of driver distraction.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), six percent of all drivers involved in a fatal crash were distracted.

Hand-held cell phone use is highest among 15 to 29-year-old drivers. Within that age group, female drivers have been in more distraction-related crashes than males every year since 2012.¹

Every day, more than 480,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. All those cell phones create enormous potential for injuries and fatalities to drivers, passengers, and anyone else on the road.²

Dangers of Texting While Driving

Drivers of all ages tend to underestimate the time it takes for a car accident to happen. The fact is, at 55 miles per hour your car will have traveled the length of a football field in the five seconds it takes you to read a text message.

Collisions can happen in as little as three seconds. The few seconds it takes a driver to send a text is all the time it takes to have devastating consequences for the driver, passengers, or occupants of another vehicle who are injured or killed in the crash.

Texting affects drivers in three ways:

  1. Manual Distractions: Drivers move attention away from the road and take one or both hands from the steering wheel while texting.
  2. Visual Distractions: Texting takes your eyes off the road. Texting drivers are not looking where the car is going. Drivers often drift out of their travel lane while reading or sending text messages. Shifting attention back to the road takes a few seconds of “switching time” for your brain to register the change. Those few seconds are plenty of time for a collision.
  3. Cognitive Distractions: Glancing up while texting isn’t enough. Even drivers who are looking straight ahead experience “inattention blindness” while talking or texting on their phone.

Most states ban texting while driving, and many states have additional restrictions for young or inexperienced drivers.

Who Pays for Your Injuries?

A texting driver is legally liable, meaning they are responsible for the damages they caused.

All people in the United States have a duty of care (obligation) to take reasonable actions to avoid causing harm to others. This duty extends to anyone behind the wheel of a car. Every driver must look out for the safety and well-being of their passengers and anyone else on the road.

Texting while driving is a dangerous activity that violates (breaches) the driver’s duty of care. That breach of duty is negligence. When negligence results in an accident, the driver becomes liable for the damages caused to others. Here’s how it works:

  • Texting while driving puts other people in danger. That failure to look out for others is a breach of the driver’s legal duty of care.
  • When a driver breaches their duty of care by texting and driving, they’re negligent.
  • When the texting driver’s negligence results in a car accident, they are liable for the accident victims’ damages.
  • Accident victims are entitled to compensation for damages directly resulting from the collision.

Damage Categories

Insurance companies pay two categories of claims, property damage claims and bodily injury claims. If you file both kinds of claims, most insurance companies assign two different claims adjusters to handle each claim.

Property damages include repair costs for your vehicle, or the car’s fair market value if it’s a total loss, and the cost of a rental while your car is in the shop. Property damage coverage also pays for personal items lost in the crash, like glasses and clothing.

Personal injury damages include medical and dental bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Accidents caused by texting while driving can result in devastating, and often fatal injuries. What if the negligent driver is a teenager or an unemployed college student? How will you get compensation?

Don’t settle for less. There may be multiple sources of compensation available for catastrophic injuries or wrongful death claims. Talk to a personal injury attorney before signing away your rights.

No-fault Insurance

If you live in a no-fault insurance state, each driver must seek compensation from their own insurance first, no matter who caused the accident. Your medical bills will be covered up to the limit of your Med-pay or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. No-fault coverage does not pay for pain and suffering.

Injured passengers in a no-fault state can usually file a bodily injury claim with the driver’s insurance. You must cooperate with the insurance company as you would your own insurance carrier.

Most no-fault states allow injured victims to pursue compensation from the negligent driver’s insurance company when the victim’s medical expenses exceed the PIP coverage limit, or if the victim’s injuries meet the “serious injury threshold” for that state.

Traditional Liability States

Outside of no-fault insurance states, your first compensation claim will go to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Liability claims against the negligent driver can be made by:

  • The driver of the car that was hit
  • Injured passengers from either car
  • Pedestrians or bicyclists injured by the texting driver
  • The estate of person killed in the collision

Or, the claim can be made by an attorney who represents the injured person or their estate.

Additional Sources of Compensation

Anyone can file an auto insurance claim, but not everyone can to track down other financial sources that may be needed to cover catastrophic injuries or a wrongful death. To successfully nail down additional compensation, you’ll need a smart personal injury attorney. Your attorney can run an asset check on the at-fault driver before your claim is settled.

Not all motorists guilty of texting and driving are teenagers. Interestingly, when it comes to adult motorists, the higher the income bracket, the more likely the person is to text while driving.

If the at-fault driver is a teenager or college student, they may be insured under other insurance policies in their primary residence, even if they are living on campus while attending school.

Teen drivers of divorced parents with shared custody are often considered residents of both households. Your attorney may be able to pursue liability coverage from both parents’ policies.

The at-fault driver may have an “umbrella policy” or live in a household covered by a personal umbrella policy. Umbrella policies are designed to pay for large liability claims that exceed the person’s auto or homeowner’s policy limits.

Finally, your attorney will look for underinsured motorist coverage under your household’s auto insurance policies.

Strong Insurance Claims Have Good Evidence

The other driver’s insurance company won’t pay your claim without proof their insured was to blame for the accident. In most cases, it’s up to you to prove your claim by providing good evidence.

Evidence from the Accident Scene

Call 911 to notify police of the accident and ask for help. Tell the dispatcher you are injured, and if you know of anyone else who may be hurt. Describe your location and tell the dispatcher if anyone is trapped, or if there are dangers at the scene.

Never refuse medical attention at the scene. If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital, plan to see a doctor the same day.

Refusing or delaying medical treatment can ruin your chance at compensation. The adjuster won’t hesitate to deny your claim, arguing that your injuries weren’t caused by the accident.

If you’re able, or someone else can help you, ask them to take some pictures and talk to potential witnesses.

Photographs and videos: Take as many photographs as possible using a smartphone camera or other device. Photographs are very effective evidence. They can show the point of impact, skid marks, and stop signs or traffic signals the driver missed while texting.

Photographs of the driver’s cell phone and open containers of alcohol are exceptionally effective evidence. Video with sound might capture the at-fault driver admitting fault for the crash.

Witness statements: Police may not have the time or personnel to speak with all witnesses or get their full statements. Yet, witness statements are crucial, especially when the witness saw the driver texting right before the accident.

Admissions against interest are very strong evidence of fault. A witnesses confirming they heard the driver say things like “I was on the phone with my girlfriend,” or “I was texting my mother,” is strong evidence.

Police reports: Police officers are trained in accident investigations. At the scene, the officer will arrange care for the injured and secure the area. The investigating officer will talk to the drivers and others involved in the crash.

Be sure to tell the officer if you have any reason to believe the other driver was on a cell phone. Texting and driving is against the law in most states.

After the investigation, the officer will prepare an official police traffic accident report. The report will include information about the drivers, diagrams of the crash scene, witness statements, citations issued, and the officer’s opinion of fault. Police reports are taken very seriously by claims adjusters when determining fault.

Continue Collecting Evidence for Your Claim

Medical records: Medical bills and treatment records can directly link the accident to your injuries. Your medical expenses will be an important part of your claim’s value. Keep receipts for all out-of-pocket expenses and track your mileage for medical and therapy appointments.

Lost wages: Ask your employer for a statement of your lost wages, and any vacation or sick leave used during your recovery.

Journaling: Write down everything you recall about the day of the accident, how the accident happened, and the aftermath. Keep detailed notes throughout your recovery to document your pain, physical limitations, sleep problems, bad dreams, and anything else related to your injuries.

Your journal will be convincing evidence of your pain and suffering.

Cell phone records: Your attorney can subpoena copies of the at-fault driver’s cell phone records on the day of the accident, even if the cell service was paid for by the driver’s parent. Phone records can be solid evidence the driver was texting at the time of the collision.

Help to Maximize Your Compensation

If you’re lucky enough to walk away from a car accident, you may not need an attorney to get a fair settlement. When you’ve fully recovered from soft-tissue injuries like bruises, minor cuts, and muscle or tendon sprains, you can probably negotiate a good settlement directly with the insurance company.

Your compensation will be the total of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. If you’re not filing a no-fault claim, you can add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.

Look like a pro by using our sample Texting Accident Compensation Demand Letter.

Hard injury claims are a different story. Hard injuries require a long recovery and expensive medical care. Hard injuries can include broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, internal injuries, and more.

No matter how sympathetic the insurance adjuster seems, they are not your friend. Adjusters are trained to protect the insurance company’s profits, not your family’s financial future. When they make that “final offer,” they know you probably won’t have the energy or legal skills to fight for more money.

Get the help you need to fight for fair compensation. It cost nothing to find out what a good personal injury attorney can do for you.

Texting While Driving Accident Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>