We have lovely neighbours, really, we do. I was pulling out of the driveway on the way to drop children at school recently – it was prime-time in the morning. People all seem to be leaving for work or school, on foot and in their vehicles, at about the same time. The bus stops are full. I like to employ a cautious approach to residential driving without being ridiculously slow. My neighbour, in her fancy Mercedes, was at first ridiculously slow. Then I watched her bounce off the curb on the right side of her car, jerk to the left and come close to taking out a parked car…all at about 20 kph. At first, I was annoyed. As the activity continued up the street, I worried about her health. I would have pulled up beside her to get her attention but honestly, I thought I would be sideswiped. Once or twice, she seemed to recognize that she was fighting a straight line and she would zoom forward at 60 kph for a half a block. Finally, she was stopped at a red light. I pulled up beside and was about to honk to get her attention. I realized that, in fact, her attention was elsewhere. She had a nice little cell phone holder affixed to her steering wheel and was busy texting away. That explained a lot. Perhaps she was communicating with her own grandkids, or someone equally more important than any pedestrians on the street might be…
It is pretty shocking how frequently we cross-examine a Defendant in a lawsuit and that bit of inattention to the road they thought they could handle actually caused a distracted driving injury. Many times, a catastrophic one.
Many years ago, I represented a terrific teenager who had been rendered paraplegic because a bunch of friends had been joking around in the car, the driver leaned over to adjust the radio station and his tire hit the curb. The chain of events that followed was catastrophic. The driver wasn’t drinking, he wasn’t a bad driver, he wasn’t being particularly reckless; he was distracted.
Being distracted in any way that causes an accident will usually be considered “negligence” and mean that injured parties (including passengers) will be entitled to compensation.
Sometimes, there is a hesitation to engage in litigation when the injured person or their family know, or at least empathize, with the at-fault driver. We would all understand that the grandmother down our street wouldn’t intentionally cause an accident. I was very clear, even as a Plaintiff lawyer, that the friend of my paraplegic client certainly didn’t intend for my client to spend his life without the use of his legs. None of those considerations should affect whether or not you sue.
Insurance is expensive. We buy it so we are covered in case of an accident. None of us want to injure anyone but if we do, we ought to want the injured party to be compensated. It would be bad enough for inattention to driving to cause an accident. Imagine being responsible for altering someone’s life. People have insurance to cover YOU if you are injured; whether you know them or not.