According to the state’s Department of Insurance, South Carolina was No. 1 in the U.S. for fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven in 2019, and drivers were ranked the seventh worst in the country.
The SCDOI puts much of the blame on distracted drivers, a practice that kills at least eight and injures 1,095 daily at a national level, as well as being responsible for two crashes every hour in South Carolina. The state also reported 18,936 collisions in 2019 where distracted driving played a role.
With all this danger from distracted driving, the odds are high that you or a loved one may be involved in a collision that can cause injury, even death. An experienced distracted driving attorney in Charleston such as the office of Trey Harrell Auto Accident and Personal Injury Attorney can be a needed resource.
Common Distractions Behind the Wheel
A distracted driving injury attorney can assist you in requesting compensation for any injuries or any property damage. Part of this involves learning about what happened, including what factors may have caused the collision and distracted the other driver.
Activity on a mobile device is often a prime culprit. Many drivers like to send texts, check messages, look at directions, or perform other activities that take their eyes away from the road. Even if it’s a few seconds, it’s dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the time to check one text message takes a vehicle the length of a football field at 55 mph.
Phones aren’t the only culprit. There could be unruly kids in the backseat. Drivers could mess with the radio, drop their meal or spill their drink. There could be a bee in the car, or challenges putting on make-up. Even things outside the car can capture a driver’s attention like an accident on the shoulder, or missing a turn or exit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have created different categories for distractions:
- Visual: Drivers can look somewhere else than the road, like a phone, radio, or a passenger.
- Manual: Drivers can take their hands off the wheel, like adjusting the radio.
- Cognitive: Drivers can lose mental focus when tired, thinking about other things, or impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Mobile devices can fit all three of these criteria which makes them especially dangerous. According to the SCDOI, texting is six times more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol.
Not all accidents caused by distracted driving are car versus car. A driver who loses control may swerve into a bicyclist, a pedestrian, or even a home or business. That’s why having a distracted driving attorney on your side is crucial: they’re familiar with these types of behaviors and can also access information from the police or insurance companies about what happened and how.
Certainly, actual accidents or medical incidents can and do happen, but sometimes a driver may deliberately put themselves in dangerous situations, such as texting or talking to friends without a hands-free device.
South Carolina’s Distracted Driving Law
Although there could be larger fines and even jail time for causing serious damage or injuries where distracted driving plays a factor, such as someone causing an accident while texting and driving under the influence of alcohol, South Carolina has minor penalties for distracted driving only.
For instance, in the state of South Carolina, it is unlawful to use a wireless electronic device to compose, send, or read a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on public roads. The penalty for a first offense is $25 and future offenses are $50 apiece. Drivers are encouraged to take steps to avoid other distractions, like restraining pets or not eating while driving.
Although South Carolina has been running educational/prevention campaigns against texting while driving since 2019 and some bills have been proposed to increase penalties or require hands-free devices, laws have not been updated.
However, people with distracted driving citations may see an increase in their auto insurance rates.
A distracted driving injury attorney may be able to help people injured by a distracted driver find relief and hold negligent drivers accountable.
What Evidence Can Determine if a Driver was Distracted?
Texting while driving is considered a primary offense, so if an officer observes someone on the phone, they have the right to pull them over and issue a citation. While it is easy to notice someone on the phone, it may not be as easy for an officer to fully confirm that they were sending or receiving texts.
In an accident situation, an officer, first responder, or a victim may observe things like a still-buzzing phone, a spilled drink, noisy passengers or pets, someone’s demeanor, or other possible signs of distraction. Phone records can also be requested from a person’s phone carrier or from their attorney. These can indicate if texting was taking place at the time that an accident occurred.
Witness statements also may provide insight into what a driver was doing before the accident, such as looking down instead of ahead. Police interviews with the other party may provide some details. They may not necessarily admit full liability, but may offer some explanation, which may be one element for a victim to move forward with a personal injury claim. A distracted driving attorney has the knowledge of how to gather this type of information.
How to Get Compensation from a Distracted Driver
A distracted driving injury attorney who takes your case can assist you in learning about your situation, including the other driver’s role. This includes finding out about what kind of damage you or a loved one have suffered as a result and realistic costs, including:
- Medical bills
- Physical therapy
- Mental health counseling
- Costs to repair/replace damaged vehicle or property
- Other financial impacts such as lost wages
Insurance companies for you and the other party will likely be involved in these discussions and may even present offers. Your attorney can advise you if these offers are suitable or if more negotiations are needed.
Do You Need an Attorney?
Legally, everyone has the right to represent themselves. But attorneys specializing in personal injury cases will be more familiar with these types of complex situations. While every situation is a little different, their experience working with local police, local insurance companies, and the local court system all can be invaluable in helping you get proper compensation and possibly larger than if you tried on your own. If you’ve never been in this type of case, they can explain the process to you and provide realistic guidance.
Contact Us Today!
The office of Trey Harrell Auto Accident and Personal Injury Attorney is happy to discuss your case and offer information about their practice and experience in helping clients in the Charleston area. You are entitled to a free consultation to let them know about what you’re experiencing. Please call us at (843) 636-8739 or reach out online to learn more.
FAQs About Distracted Driving Cases
Will I have to go to court?
Not necessarily. Most situations can be taken care of through negotiations with insurance companies and attorneys. You may just have to sign papers.
What if I can’t pay for a lawyer?
These types of cases are often performed on a contingency basis, where if you receive a settlement, we will receive a fixed percentage for our efforts in assisting you, which we will disclose. This avoids you having to come up with a lot of money up front, and we only get paid if you get paid.
What do I say to the insurance companies?
We always encourage our clients to be truthful and honest. We also are happy to have a role in these discussions especially since we’re familiar with the terminology and processes.