Cell Phone Use & Traffic Accidents in Phoenix, Arizona
Whether your phone buzzes and there’s a text you’re anxious to receive, or you want to change the music to something that better matches your mood, phones can be a big temptation when on the road. Unfortunately, as useful as our phones are, they are a distraction that ultimately reduces safety if used while driving. Since cell phones have become such a common item, undoubtedly the number of traffic accidents caused by cell phone distraction has increased. This can be expensive, inconvenient, and even life-altering for an accident victim who has been injured by a distracted driver. If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver, you deserve compensation for your injuries. Our Arizona injury team can help you receive an award that fairly represents what you have gone through due to a traffic accident caused by cell phone distraction. To see if you have a viable personal injury claim, you can discuss your situation with an injury lawyer. Get started with your free case evaluation today by calling 480-448-9800.
A.R.S. § 28-914
Arizona’s law regarding cell phone usage while driving is A.R.S. § 28-914. Unless the driver has stopped and parked their vehicle, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle while physically holding or supporting a cell phone with any part of their body. It also makes it illegal to write, send, or read any text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle. Voice-based devices and other hands-free devices can be used while driving. A driver can use a GPS or other navigational device while driving as long as they can operate it in a hands-free manner. Similarly, a driver can use a cell phone to obtain information related to operating a motor vehicle while driving if it can be done in a hands-free manner.
There are other exceptions to the use of cell phones and other devices while operating a motor vehicle. Emergency providers, law enforcement, and probation vehicles can use portable wireless communication devices while operating in an official capacity. Federal officers can also use radio devices while operating in an official capacity. There is also an exception for motor vehicle operators who are using a cell phone to report illegal activity or summon emergency help.
Someone who is found to have violated § 28-914 will receive a civil penalty of $75-$149 for a first offense. Each subsequent violation will come with a civil penalty between $150 and $250.
How Distraction Can Affect Fault in a Personal Injury Claim
As per A.R.S. § 12-2509, Arizona is a comparative negligence state when it comes to personal injury claims. This is in comparison to contributory negligence, which some other states follow for personal injury law. Because Arizona is a comparative negligence state, a plaintiff can still collect after an accident, even if they had a part in causing that accident. Technically, although the circumstances would be rare, a plaintiff can still sue a defendant for their injuries, even if the plaintiff was 99% at fault in creating the accident.
So how could cell phone use in a traffic accident affect a personal injury payout? Let’s say that one driver was going slightly over the speed limit or didn’t properly use their turn signals. However, a majority of the fault, for example, 70%, is attributed to the other driver being distracted by texting on their cell phone. The first driver, or the plaintiff, is injured and has damages totaling $15,000. However, because they were 30% at fault for the accident, their award will be reduced to $10,500. If the injured plaintiff had no liability in creating the accident or 0% fault, they would receive the full $15,000. For more information about calculating damages when more than one party is at fault, call 480-448-9800 for your free consultation.
Proving Cell Phone Use in a Traffic Accident
It’s one thing to say that another driver was distracted by their cell phone and another thing to actually prove it in court. If your case makes it all the way to trial, the jury isn’t going to just take your word for it that the accident occurred because the other driver was distracted. Fortunately, there are several ways that you can show in court that another driver was using their cell phone at the time of the accident.
Eyewitness testimony: Oftentimes, there is at least one person who witnesses a traffic accident without being involved in it. Eyewitness testimony isn’t necessarily the strongest form of evidence, but is better than the plaintiff’s word alone in proving that the defendant was using their cell phone at the time of the accident. If you aren’t too injured to look for witnesses at the scene, you may want to do so immediately after the accident- witnesses will be much harder to track down if you wait. Clearly, the witness must be willing to testify that they saw the defendant using their cell phone during or immediately before the accident.
Surveillance footage/Dash cam footage: Video cameras are more and more present in our society, increasing the likelihood that a traffic accident may be caught on camera. Red light cameras, speed cameras, and even security cameras from nearby buildings may have caught footage of the incident on tape. You, the other driver, or third-party drivers may have dash cam footage of the accident. If that footage captures the other driver using their cell phone, it can strengthen your personal injury claim.
Cell phone records:It’s unlikely that the other driver will be eager to give up their cell phone records from the time of a traffic accident, but they can be subpoenaed for personal injury purposes. Your attorney can help you subpoena cell phone records to see if the other driver was texting, sending emails, scrolling social media, etc., at the time of the accident.
Citation or police report: In some traffic accidents, the police may actually witness and/or attest to at least one driver using their cell phone at the time of the incident. If the police issue the other driver a ticket for texting and driving or state that the other driver was distracted by their phone in the police report, it can help your claim.
Contact Our Phoenix Personal Injury Firm for Your Free Case Evaluation
Not every car accident is a personal injury claim that should proceed to trial. Sometimes, you need to have your specific situation evaluated by a professional. If the insurance companies had their way, the first professional you’d speak to would be one of their agents. However, their main priorities aren’t ensuring a fair payout and expediting the process. The insurance company’s focus will be on getting you to settle for as low a sum as possible. But you may have medical bills, lost income, pain, and suffering, and other expenses that need to be repaid for you to become whole again. My AZ Personal Injury Lawyer can make sure that you are fairly compensated for every damage you incur. Our Phoenix injury team strives to make every step of the process as simple as possible, starting with your free case evaluation. Contact us through our online form or pick up the phone and call 480-448-9800.