According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is defined as “any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.”
That said, it’s tough to legislate and much more difficult to enforce. Realistically, drivers have likely been driving while distracted for as long as vehicles have existed. Eating, applying makeup, or even using the radio can fall under the umbrella of distracted driving.
Here’s what you should know about distracted driving legislation, potential defenses the other driver can use if you sue them, and how to get legal help from an experienced car accident lawyer.
Laws Against Distracted Driving in Massachusetts
Since September 2010, Massachusetts has had a Safe Driving Law in place. While driving a car, it is illegal to transmit, type, or read electronic communications to or from portable devices, including cell phones, tablets, etc. This covers text messaging and internet usage. The law also prohibits junior drivers from using any portable electronics while driving.
Laws Against Distracted Driving in New Hampshire
The distracted driving statute in New Hampshire prohibits all drivers from operating their vehicle while using mobile electronic equipment while reading, writing, viewing, or posting an electronic message. Drivers also may not dial out or receive a call, get on the internet, type information into a GPS device, or manually enter any data into a mobile device.
The definition of “driving” under New Hampshire law includes being in motion or coming to a brief stop for at stop signs or red lights. This term does not, however, cover being behind the wheel of a motor vehicle that is parked legally on or off the side of the road. This law does not apply to emergency communication devices, two-way radio use, or hands-free tech.
Potential Defenses Against Distracted Driving
If you bring an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the other driver for damages relating to your injuries, they will most likely try to defend themselves. Here are some of the most common defenses against distracted driving and how to counter them with the help of a car accident injury attorney.
The driver’s behavior wasn’t because they were distracted.
Because the penalties for distracted driving in Massachusetts and New Hampshire are so harsh, distracted drivers that cause collisions often try to pin their behavior on something else. For example, they may blame being inattentive while driving on a health issue or on another passenger in their car. This may initially seem like an effective defense, but drivers are not immune to culpability just because the incident may not have been fully in their control.
The driver’s phone wasn’t on or being used at the time of the accident.
The other driver may try to suggest that they couldn’t have been driving distracted because their phone wasn’t on or in use when the accident happened. However, it’s important to remember that texting and driving or using a cell phone at all isn’t the only form of distracted driving. Look for indicators that the driver wasn’t paying attention, such as blatantly ignoring traffic signals or pulling out in front of someone.
The driver had a special exception, such as in the event of an emergency.
The driver who hit you may suggest that they were distracted or driving erratically because they were in the middle of dealing with an emergency. This is another potentially legitimate excuse, so it’s important to dig further when someone makes this claim. While it may initially seem crass, it’s actually perfectly fine to ask for proof of the emergency the individual claims is the reason for their behavior.
The accused driver wasn’t the person who caused the accident.
Although this is used as a defense less frequently than the above, a driver may still try to say that they can’t be responsible because they weren’t the one driving. This is more likely to occur when two people are in the other car; the passenger and driver may switch seats and the actual driver may pretend to be the passenger. However, a true case of mistaken identity may also be argued. Ideally you can obtain video footage or witness testimony to refute this.
How a Distracted Driving Lawyer Can Assist You
If you or a loved one were hurt in a motor vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be owed financial compensation to cover expenses like medical bills and lost wages. A lawyer can act as an intermediary between you and the other driver, their insurance company, or their attorney. They can thoroughly investigate claims made by the other driver and refute them with evidence where possible.
A lawyer can also help you hold drivers who blatantly disregarded your safety or caused you serious harm criminally responsible. Sometimes these offenders slip through the cracks and it’s actually the victim’s personal injury attorney who advocates for the prosecution of the offending driver. A lawyer can be an invaluable resource for individuals and families who were impacted by a distracted driver.
Reach Out to Massachusetts and New Hampshire Personal Injury Attorneys Mazow | McCullough, PC Today
The experienced distracted driving lawyers at Mazow | McCullough, PC can help you decide if pursuing restitution for your car accident is in your best interests. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our team by dialing (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084. We are available now to answer your questions and help you better understand your legal rights in a situation like this.