According to a recent study done by Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, more than 3,000 teenagers die every year from texting while driving, while only 2,700 die from driving under the influence of alcohol. However, despite texting’s inherent danger, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports that 50% of high school students admit to texting while driving.
Tragedy hits Georgia and legislators stand up to distracted driving
The tragic death of Caleb Sorohan, an 18-year-old driver that lost control of his car while texting, motivated the Georgia state legislature to ban texting while driving and to legislate other driving safety measures, too. Senate Bill 360, named the “Caleb Sorohan Act for Saving Lives by Preventing Texting While Driving,” was enacted in 2010. It prohibits drivers from “writing, sending, or reading” a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle. This ban applies to all drivers, irrespective of age. Anyone violating the law can expect to receive a fine up to $150 and a downgrade of one point on their license.
What are the penalties for distracted driving?
Distracted drivers that cause serious injuries, including fatalities, face two potential legal claims: one is civil, and the other is criminal. In a civil suit, those injured usually sue the at-fault driver to get compensation for losses suffered as a result of the crash. In order to be successful, those bringing the suit must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the at-fault party’s careless behavior caused their injuries ― and is therefore liable to pay for the damage caused.
In a criminal suit, the state ― rather than an injured individual – sues and the object of the suit is the punishment of the perpetrator rather than compensation of the injured party. In a criminal suit, the prosecution must prove the perpetrator’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before the at-fault driver is subject to punishment.
What constitutes “negligence” in distracted driving cases? And what is the difference between civil negligence and criminal negligence?
Another difference between civil and criminal actions for negligence is reflected in the degree of negligence that caused injury. In a civil suit, those suing for compensation need only show that the at-fault party’s carelessness was the primary cause of their injuries. However, to convict someone of a crime, the prosecution must prove that the at-fault party had evil intent or evidenced a level of recklessness that amounts to evil intent in the eyes of the law. Put simply, in a criminal suit, the degree of negligence that must be proved to punish someone for criminal negligence is more serious than the level of negligence that must be shown in a civil trial to make an at-fault party pay for hurting someone else.
For example, if a driver looks down for two seconds to find change to pay an upcoming toll and, as a result, crashes into another vehicle, the driver’s behavior would probably suffice to hold them liable for civil negligence in a personal injury lawsuit. On the other hand, if a driver intentionally ran a red light and then crashed into a pedestrian, the driver’s behavior would likely be grounds for the driver’s arrest upon a charge of criminal negligence.
Need a lawyer with experience in distracted driving cases?
The lawyers at The McGarity Group handle a wide range of personal injury accidents, including distracted driving cases. Contact The McGarity Group, LLC today.
By J. Michael McGarity | Published September 16, 2013 | Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents