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Distracted Driving Deaths on the Rise
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that distracted driving causes thousands of deaths per year. Moreover, the recent increase in distracted driving has been identified as the major cause of the overall increase in traffic deaths in 2015. Florida’s wrongful death law provides a framework for the financial relief of grieving relatives of victims of distracted driving accidents.
Types of Distracted Driving
The major causes of distracted driving accidents can be broken down into three categories:
- Visual: Taking your eyes off the road, even for a moment. Texting and driving is a common example of this mistake. Taking your eyes off the road at 55 miles per hour long enough to draft a five-second text message will cause you to drive blind over more than the length of a football field.
- Manual: Taking your hands off the steering wheel. Dialing a cell phone or even adjusting the radio dial with one hand can result in a disastrous distraction, especially under adverse road conditions.
- Mental: Taking your mind off of driving. Arguing with your spouse or getting too caught up in a favorite song can interrupt your concentration long enough to allow you to commit a fatal error.
The use of electronic devices is responsible for most if not all of the recent increase in distracted driving deaths.
Florida’s Distracted Driving Law
In Tampa, distracted driving is regulated by Florida state law. In particular, Florida law prohibits a driver from texting, emailing or instant messaging while driving. For the moment, this law is considered a secondary offense – a police officer cannot pull over a driver for this offense unless he witnessed him committing another offense, such as speeding. The offense is considered a non-moving violation and the driver will receive a ticket. Currently, Florida law does not prohibit using a cell phone while driving.
Distracted Driving and Wrongful Death Lawsuits
If the victim of a distracted driving auto accident dies as a result of his injuries, the surviving spouse and/or dependent children can sue the driver who caused the accident within four years after the victim’s death. The surviving relatives can claim compensation for the following losses:
- The value of support and services provided by the victim
- Loss of companionship and other relational benefits
- Psychological suffering (if a child was killed)
- Medical or funeral expenses actually paid by the plaintiff
The deceased person's estate may also recover certain damages which may then be inherited by grieving relatives.
If a defendant is convicted of a distracted driving offense arising out of a fatal accident, the conviction can be used as evidence against him in a wrongful death lawsuit. Even without a conviction, however, an experienced Tampa personal injury lawyer will know how to subpoena the driver’s cell phone records to establish that the driver was texting or talking on his cell phone at the time of the accident. If the facts of the particular case taken as a whole prove that the driver’s conduct amounted to negligence (carelessness), and if that negligence was the cause of the accident, a plaintiff can recover damages from the driver or his insurance carrier.
Putting It All Together
If your close relative was killed in a distracted driving accident, experienced and aggressive Tampa wrongful death lawyers can help you maximize your chances of winning a lawsuit or negotiating a generous out-of-court settlement. At Alley, Clark & Greiwe, we take pride in our long track record of successful wrongful death cases, as well as our relentless pursuit of our clients’ best interests. If your close relative has been killed in a distracted driving accident, contact us online or call us at 813-222-0977 for a free initial evaluation of your case.