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West Virginia Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer

Distracted driving causes needless suffering. If you have suffered harm in an accident because someone was texting, call our West Virginia distracted driving lawyers at Manchin Injury Law Group. In a free consultation, one of our West Virginia car accident lawyers can explain your legal options and how we can help you recover compensation for a texting while driving accident.

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How a Distracted Driving Attorney Can Help

It is important to fully protect your rights after getting into an accident with a distracted or careless driver. The driver’s insurance company will do everything possible to minimize your payout and save itself money. This may include underestimating your losses, using a pre-existing injury against you or rejecting a valid claim. A distracted driving accident attorney can help you gather evidence against the at-fault driver and prove your case, as well as negotiate for fair and full financial compensation. A lawyer will take care of the steps of your claim for you while you concentrate on getting better.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving means to be engaged in another activity while operating a motor vehicle. Safely and prudently driving a motor vehicle requires 100 percent of a driver’s attention. Diverting even a portion of physical or mental attention to something other than the driving task increases the risk of a car accident. There are three different types of driver distractions:

  • Visual. Something that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, such as the screen of a cell phone or words on a billboard.
  • Manual. A distraction that forces a driver to remove his or her hands from the wheel, such as fiddling with the radio.
  • Cognitive. Distractions that take a driver’s mind off of the driving task, such as a recent argument with a loved one.

Texting and driving is the most dangerous type of driver distraction, as it consists of all three types. Driver distractions can cause decreased reaction times, slowed reflexes and poor decision-making. A distracted driver may miss a stop sign, fail to notice a red light or be unable to hit the brakes in time to avoid hitting a stopped vehicle. Distracted drivers are especially dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians in West Virginia.

Common Examples of Driver Distractions

While most people picture the use of a mobile phone when they imagine distracted driving, many different things could take a driver’s attention away from the road. Anything that detracts a driver’s attention from the road is a dangerous distraction. Common examples include:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Cell phone use
  • Texting and driving
  • Infotainment systems
  • Talking with passengers
  • Handling children or pets
  • Looking at a map or GPS
  • Personal grooming
  • Changing the radio station
  • Reading a billboard or sign
  • Daydreaming or cognitive distractions

Electronic devices are an extremely common driver distraction, especially among teenagers and young adults. However, many different things can distract a driver. It is a driver’s responsibility to ignore potential sources of distraction and focus his or her complete attention on the task at hand. There is no excuse for driving distracted.

What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Distracted Driving Accident?

For more than 30 years, the Manchin Injury Law Group in Fairmont has been representing victims of motor vehicle accidents. Our West Virginia personal injury lawyers vigorously represent our clients, seeking maximum compensation for all losses, including medical costs, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering. Our law firm wants to help you get the medical care and compensation that can enable you to rebuild your life.

While we understand that no amount of money can ever make up for a serious injury because of a distracted driver, we also know that seeking compensation through an insurance claim or lawsuit can give you the closure you deserve. You may be eligible to recover the following damages from a distracted driver’s insurance company:

  • Medical costs. The total amount of money spent on necessary medical care, including emergency services, surgeries, medications, therapy, rehabilitation and future foreseeable costs.
  • Lost income. Any lost wages or employment benefits connected to time taken off work to recover from a car accident injury.
  • Lost capacity to earn. Compensation to make up for a lifetime of lost earnings if you suffered a debilitating injury.
  • Property damage. The price of motor vehicle repairs and the replacement of other damaged property, or the actual pre-crash value of your vehicle if it was totaled.
  • Pain and suffering. The intangible losses that you suffered in the distracted driving accident, such as physical pain, emotional distress, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of consortium.
  • Punitive damages. An amount that is sometimes awarded to penalize a defendant. If a judge believes that the distracted driver is guilty of gross negligence, you may receive punitive damages.

Since you cannot trust a car insurance company to award maximum compensation for your losses, it is important to consult with an attorney about the value of your case before accepting an insurance settlement. Our lawyers can help you create a comprehensive list of your recoverable damages to include on a demand letter or injury lawsuit. Then, we will use proven legal strategies to fight for the best possible results on your behalf.

Who Is Liable for a Distracted Driving Accident in West Virginia?

Liability in a car accident case means legal and financial responsibility for the crash and related losses. Liability for an automobile accident largely depends on the insurance law in the state. Like most states, West Virginia uses a tort-based law. This means the party that is guilty of a tort, or wrongdoing, in connection to the accident must pay for the crash through his or her auto insurance. In a no-fault insurance state, on the other hand, all drivers file claims with their own insurers, regardless of fault.

If a distracted driver causes a car crash in West Virginia, he or she will have to pay. All drivers in West Virginia must carry minimum amounts of liability insurance to pay for others’ medical bills and property repairs after a car accident. It is up to the victim, however, to prove that the other driver is at fault. You or your West Virginia distracted driving accident lawyer will need to prove that the other driver was distracted and that this resulted in your car accident. The burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, or clear and convincing evidence that the driver is more likely at fault for your car accident than not.

Injuries in a Distracted Driving Accident

Distracted driving accidents can be especially devastating to victims due to the nature of the crash. By definition, a distracted driver is not paying attention to the road, and therefore may not touch the brakes before impact with vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians. This can mean traumatic and high-speed collisions. Distracted driving accident survivors often come away with serious injuries, such as:

Some victims suffer fatal injuries, leaving behind surviving family members who may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit in West Virginia. If you were diagnosed with any type of injury after a distracted driving accident, our lawyers can help. We will put our years of experience to work on your behalf, arguing for maximum compensation to help cover your injury-related medical costs and other losses.

The Signs of a Distracted Driver

Distracted drivers often cannot properly control their motor vehicles. They may not notice changing roadway conditions or obey basic traffic laws. This can cause erratic driving behaviors that may be noticeable to surrounding drivers. If you notice another driver doing any of the following, he or she may be dangerously distracted:

  • Swerving
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Drifting between lanes
  • Slowing down or speeding up erratically
  • Looking down at his or her lap
  • Speeding or driving too slowly
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Violating traffic laws

If you find yourself behind a driver who appears distracted, keep your distance to avoid an accident. Take note of the make, model and license plate number of the vehicle. Then, find a safe place to pull over and call your local nonemergency police number to report the dangerous driver.

Evidence in a Distracted Driving Accident Case

Evidence is central to your distracted driving car accident case. You may need an attorney to help you collect evidence that proves that the other driver caused the wreck by not paying enough attention to the road. Cell phones leave a trail of evidence. Our law firm will act quickly to preserve this evidence. Evidence may include the cell phone itself and call records indicating the time the text messaging took place.

In addition, information from the vehicle’s GPS can indicate the location and speed of the at-fault distracted driver’s vehicle. Other forms of evidence that are general to car accident cases include eyewitness statements, a police report, video surveillance footage, photographs of the crash scene and expert testimony. Our lawyers can help you collect compelling evidence to support your distracted driving accident case in West Virginia.

What Is the Deadline for Filing a Car Accident Claim in West Virginia?

If you get injured in a car accident, you only have a limited amount of time in which to file a personal injury lawsuit against the distracted driver or another party. West Virginia has a law called a statute of limitations that places a strict time limit on the right to file. This deadline is two years from the date of the crash. If you are filing a wrongful death claim on behalf of a deceased loved one, you have two years from the date that he or she passed away.

There are some exceptions to the rule, such as if you plan on filing a case against a government entity. In this case, your deadline can be significantly shorter. This is why it is important to contact a car accident lawyer in West Virginia as soon as possible about a distracted driving car accident case.

West Virginia Distracted Driving Laws

West Virginia has passed multiple laws to prevent distracted driving. First, it has a law in place prohibiting reckless driving, which is defined as operating a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property (West Virginia Code Section 17C-5-3). If distracted driving reaches the level of operating a vehicle recklessly or wantonly, such as with excessive speeding or violating traffic laws, a driver could receive a ticket and a misdemeanor charge for endangering the lives of others.

In addition, West Virginia has laws specifically regarding cell phone use behind the wheel. In West Virginia, drivers under the age of 18 with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses are completely forbidden to operate a cell phone or hand-held electronic device while driving. Drivers of all ages are prohibited from texting while driving (WV Code 17C-14-15). The law states that the penalty for using a cell phone illegally while driving – including to view or transmit images or data, play games, compose or read text messages, or engage in a phone call – is a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for a third or subsequent offense.

Text messaging while driving is against the law for all drivers in West Virginia. But that does not stop this dangerous practice from happening. The result can be a serious T-bone or rear-end accident. If a driver in West Virginia is guilty of breaking a state law in the moments leading up to the crash, such as texting and driving, you may have grounds to file a negligence per se case. Negligence per se means that someone is found to be negligent simply for breaking a law, with no other proof of negligence necessary. This type of case could allow you to hold a distracted driver liable for your losses.

Distracted Driving Accident Statistics

Keeping track of the number of automobile accidents caused by distracted driving can allow national safety organizations to take steps to control and eliminate this problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is one of the main entities in charge of spreading awareness and education about the dangers of distracted driving. According to the NHTSA, 3,142 lives were lost in car accidents involving distracted drivers in 2019. Distracted driving deaths accounted for 9 percent of all fatal car accidents in 2019

The rate of distracted driving accidents has increased in recent years due to an influx in cell phone and technology use. A competitive culture where it is normal to always be on the go has contributed to the high number of distracted drivers. Many drivers mistakenly believe that they can safely multitask behind the wheel. This has led to drivers attempting to take phone calls, send text messages, respond to emails and check social media sites while driving. From 2012 to 2019, more than 26,000 people died in distracted driving collisions.

Contact Our West Virginia Distracted Driving Accident Attorneys

Call the Manchin Injury Law Group at (304) 367-1862 or send us an email to learn how we can help you recover compensation after a distracted driving accident. Our law firm in West Virginia wants to help you hold distracted drivers accountable for your losses. Our West Virginia distracted driving lawyers will also place a value on the full amount of your financial losses and suffering. If you lost a loved one, we can help you explore your legal options for compensation. Manchin Injury Law Group will seek the best possible result for you.