Car Accident Liability For Cell Phone Use

In many states, the use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited. If you were involved in a car accident while using a cell phone, you may have liability even if you believe you were not at fault.

In states where cell phone use while driving is prohibited, monetary fines and penalties are usually issued along with a traffic ticket. Being involved in a car accident while using a cell phone may also affect your chances of success in a lawsuit as your unlawful cell phone use can be used against you.

How Cell Phone Use Causes Car Accidents

Most car accidents that result from cell phone usage usually involve negligent or careless conduct while operating a motor vehicle. The most common examples are as follows:

  • Driving with only one hand to control the steering wheel
  • Failing to pay attention to the road and reaction to potential dangers around due to distractions caused by cell phone use
  • Momentarily looking away from the road in order to make or answer a telephone call or reach for a cell phone
  • Distraction due to the conversation on the cell phone such as an emotional reaction that causes the driver to be distracted or drive erratically or recklessly

Cell Phone Use While Driving: Appearance of Reckless Conduct

In a typical car accident lawsuit, the plaintiff is required to prove that the defendant caused the car accident due to negligent or reckless driving. In many instances where a defendant is determined to have been using a cell phone at the moment of the car accident or a short time beforehand, the jury will frequently side with the plaintiff. Such conduct, which is a traffic offense, infers a high probability of negligence. If the plaintiff wins, the defendant will likely be responsible for all damages caused to the plaintiff as a result of the car accident. This may include an award for property damage and personal injury.

Employees Using Cell Phones While Driving For Business

If a car accident is caused by an employee making or taking a work-related call while driving, it is possible that the employer could be held legally responsible for accident related damages. An employer will generally be held liable for damages that result from a car accident occurring while an employee was performing employment related work. The legal doctrine of “respondeat superior” imputes liability of an employee on the employer. In addition, a car accident plaintiff will often sue the employer rather than the employee since the employer frequently has more money or “deep pockets.” As a result, most employers have strict policies in place that prohibit employees from making or taking make work related calls while driving.

Parental Responsibility for a Child Driver’s Cell Phone Usage

In a recent lawsuit, a plaintiff argued that the parents of a teenager who caused a car accident due to allegedly improper cell phone should be legally responsible for the accident. The parents provided the minor driver with the cell phone that was used improperly while driving. Although there has not yet been a decision in this case, it serves as prudent notice to parents to warn their teenage children about the dangers of cell phone use while driving. It might be a good idea to purchase a hands-free device for their children’s automobile to ensure that there are no excuses for not driving safely.

With regard to motor vehicle laws, some states have enacted specific laws relating to the use of cell phones by young drivers. The law for younger drivers in many of these states is stricter for younger drivers than adults. Some states go so far as to prohibit younger drivers are prohibited from using cell phones altogether.

Insurance Coverage and Car Accidents Involving Cell Phone Use

It is been reported that auto insurance companies are examining the links between cell phone usage and car accidents. It is not a surprise that they are now making extra efforts to warn motorists of the dangers of driving distractions. It is quite likely that car insurance premiums will rise for motorists found to be responsible for a car accident as a result of cell phone usage, including obtaining a traffic ticket for talking on a cell phone while driving which doesn’t involve a car accident.

Michael M Wechsler, Esq.

Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com and former SVP of Zedge.net. He has published hundreds of articles online covering a variety of legal topics and regularly provides free legal advice at The Law Forums.

Michael M Wechsler, Esq. – has written posts on TheLaw.com Guide.