These days, our phones can feel like our lifelines because they help us stay connected with our loved ones amidst busy schedules and long distances. However, when you’re driving, your phone becomes quite the opposite of a lifeline. While driving, glancing down to your phone to send a text message is a costly, sometimes deadly decision.
In fact, if you should get into a car accident while sending a message, that text can be used by a personal injury attorney as evidence to convict you of negligence in a personal injury case. Read on to find out how texting and driving constitutes negligence and what the consequences of a texting and driving car accident are.
Texting and Driving Laws in Tennessee
In Tennessee, unless you’re a bus driver or have a learner’s permit or intermediate license, it is legal to talk on the phone while driving. However, engaging in a phone conversation, even if your hands are free, takes your attention away from the audible and visual cues that keep you safe while driving.
Also, if you have to look down at your phone to dial the number, that is essentially the same as texting while driving, which is always illegal for all drivers in Tennessee. Why is texting while driving illegal? The National Safety Council attributes an estimated one fourth of all car accidents to “cell phone use.”
Think you’re lucky enough to escape the statistics? Consider this hard fact: According to the federal government’s “Distracted Driving” website, sending a text message while driving takes your eyes from the road to your phone for an average of five seconds. Five seconds might not seem like a long time, but when you’re driving 55 mph, you cover “the length of a football field”…without looking at the road.
Consequences of Texting and Driving in Tennessee
If a police officer pulls you over for texting while driving, you will be fined up to $50. If you have a learner’s permit or intermediate license, that fine goes up to $100, and when you become eligible to apply for your next level license, you will have to wait an additional 90 days.
However, it’s preferable to be pulled over and fined for texting and driving than to get into a car accident while texting. Beyond the injuries and bills that drivers and passengers in both cars in an auto accident might incur, if you are at fault for texting and driving, you could face jail time or other legal punishments that far exceed a $50 fine, especially if a death occurs in the accident.
You are determined guilty in a personal injury case and eligible for those punishments if negligence can be proven, meaning that you were in fact texting when the car accident happened.
What is Negligence in a Personal Injury Case?
Essentially, being guilty of negligence in a personal injury case means you failed to exercise the level of caution that any reasonable person would have in the situation leading up to the other person’s injury. In a personal injury case involving a car accident, negligence and liability can usually be proven if you failed to obey a traffic law such as the ban on texting while driving.
Breaking that particular traffic law means you did not see the car you were about to hit, whereas a reasonable person would have been expected to see it and avoid it. In order to prove someone guilty of negligence for breaking the “no texting while driving” traffic law, there are numerous ways to find out whether you were in fact texting at the time of the accident.
How Can Negligence Be Proven in a Texting and Driving Car Accident?
First, eyewitnesses of the auto accident can testify in front of a jury in a personal injury case that you were gazing down (possibly at a phone) when the accident occurred. Like the rest of the public these days, the jury is likely to recognize “looking down” as a sign of looking at a phone, because people do that so often everyday, no matter where they are.
More definitive documentation can be found in the defendant’s phone records, which a personal injury attorney can procure through a subpoena (legal search warrant). To prove that the driver was texting at the time of the accident, the timestamps on the phone activity can be matched to the moment of the crash. An even simpler way to present that evidence is through screenshots of text messages on the actual phone, if it survived the crash and was found by police.
Your cellphone (or one of the same model) can even be brought to the courtroom by a personal injury attorney to illustrate to the jury exactly how difficult it would have been to maneuver through all of the activity that your phone records indicate in the moments leading up to the accident.
Consult your Memphis Personal Injury Attorney
I hope this post has convinced you to quit texting and driving, or never start. I have seen too many suffering personal injury clients who just wish that one little text hadn’t stolen the attention of the driver who hit them.
If you have been injured in a car accident, whether it was caused by texting and driving or something else, please contact your trusted Memphis personal injury attorney. We are committed to using our extensive experience with car accident cases to get you a proper personal injury settlement while you focus on recuperating.