Alabama Distraction Crash Lawsuit Jury Awards $525,000

A truck driver, reportedly distracted by his cell phone, has been held liable for injuries sustained by two men who were struck by the driver while traveling U.S. Highway 31 near Birmingham.

According to media reports, a man and his nephew sustained severe injuries as a result of the collision, including rib fractures, broken facial bones, a brain bleed and surgery to remove a spleen.

Following a recent five-day trial, a jury in Jefferson County Circuit Court ordered the driver to pay $525,000 collectively to both men for causing the crash.

This figure might seem somewhat high, but the reality is, costs for crash injuries can add up quickly when one factors emergency care, long-term medical bills, therapies, lost wages, property damage and disabling conditions that may prevent a return to work. A recent AAA study found the average cost of an injury crash is $126,000. Meanwhile, the cost of an average traffic fatality is about $6 million.

Our Montgomery auto injury attorneys recognize that distracted driving is a major roadway problem, not just in Alabama, but nationwide. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports an average of 3,300 people are killed annually as a result of distraction-related crashes. That figure is likely a low estimate, as it can be difficult to pinpoint what a driver was doing in the seconds before a crash.

One way injury lawyers work to establish defendant driver distraction is by filing a request for production of defendant’s cell phone records during the discovery phase. Cell phone records obtained for a certain window of time can tell us whether a user was accessing a phone, text or other digital services around the time of the crash. It can also indicate whether driver had a pattern of using these services while simultaneously operating a vehicle.

Defendants will often attempt to pull the privacy card in the fight for those records. While the judge may limit the scope of the request and the way in which the information is culled, most courts have found such information is highly relevant to an alleged case of distracted driving.

In the most recent action, plaintiff attorneys asserted the driver had been using his cell phone frequently throughout the day, and he was also on the road for much of the day, indicating these activities overlapped.

Plaintiff attorneys asserted defendant was looking at his phone as he approached an intersection and completely disregarded a red light, blowing through the intersection and slamming into plaintiffs’ vehicle.

Defendant, who was represented by an attorney provided by his insurance company, argued he had a green light at the time of the crash. However, the jury did not accept this argument.

Media reports do not indicate if the truck driver was a commercial trucker. In crash cases that do involve commercial drivers, plaintiffs can usually also establish a case against the carrier/employer for liability, or alternatively for negligent hiring and/or supervision of the driver.

Alabama law prohibits texting while driving for all drivers, but only limits all cell-phone use (handheld and hands-free devices) for novice drivers.

Despite the fact that 14 states (plus D.C.) ban hand-held cell phones and 44 states ban text messaging while driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association estimates that at any given daylight hour in the U.S., 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or operating electronic devices.

Given this, it’s no wonder the crash rate involving distraction is so high. The only surprise is that it isn’t higher.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.

Additional Resources:
Jefferson County jury awards $525,000 to men injured in distracted driving wreck, Nov. 12, 2014, By Kelsey Stein,
More Blog Entries:
Travelers v. Harrington – Auto Insurance Exclusions, Nov. 2, 2014, Montgomery Crash Lawyer Blog

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