In New Jersey, distracted driving is a leading cause of fatal car crashes. Data shows that driver inattention accounted for more than half of all crashes recorded in the state from 2011 through 2020, and for nearly a third of fatal crashes.
The New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety defines distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. The most common, and serious, type of distraction is texting. Here in New Jersey, we have some of the strictest laws against distracted driving. N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3 states that anyone who holds a cell phone while driving can be fined up to $400 for a first offense, and can lose their license after three offenses, and police can pull over any driver they see breaking this law, even if the driver isn’t breaking any other traffic laws.
But a statutory fine only goes to pay the state, not the victim of any resulting car accident. In order to receive compensation for injuries resulting from a distracted driving car accident, the victim will need to file an insurance claim and possibly sue the distracted driver if the injuries or property damage are serious enough. In New Jersey, car insurance policies carry Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) benefits that compensate accident victims regardless of fault. Yet PIP benefits cover only medical bills and lost time at work, and will not compensate a victim for claims such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, or other types of damage. These claims will require a lawsuit
In any car accident lawsuit, the injured person must prove that the other driver is at fault. While distracted driving is illegal in New Jersey, someone found to have driven while distracted is not automatically considered at fault for an accident. However, a driver’s use of a cell phone or other distraction can be powerful evidence of fault, and if a case goes to trial, a jury will look at the conduct of both drivers (including whether they were distracted) and any surrounding conditions to determine who is at fault.
If you have been involved in an automobile accident and you suspect that distracted driving was involved, contact the experienced attorneys at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP for help.