According to the Nebraska Department of Transportation, approximately 4,700 drivers were involved in distracted driving crashes on Nebraska roads in 2017. More than 1,500 of those drivers sustained serious injuries, and 19 died. Distracted driving isn’t a new problem, but the nature of distractions has changed over the years; new technologies like smartphones and GPS devices add to the issue. In some cases, distracted drivers violate traffic regulations; in other cases, they are simply driving negligently. Both situations put other motorists at risk for severe injuries and even death.
If you have been injured in a car accident in Nebraska because of a distracted driver, you need to contact an experienced auto accident attorney as soon as possible. A member of our legal team can immediately begin working on your case, so that the four-year statute of limitations on your claim does not run out. Contact the seasoned auto accident attorneys at the Robert Pahlke Law Group today at (308) 633-4444 for a free consultation and to discuss your case.
What Is Distracted Driving?
The dangers of distracted driving have caused both state and federal government organizations to place particular focus on educating the public about distracted driving in an attempt to reduce the number of accidents. Definitions vary, but everyone agrees that distracted driving involves a driver engaging in an activity that takes his or her attention away from driving. Some entities further divide distractions into visual, manual, and cognitive distractions.
Even talking to another person in the car or adjusting the car radio are also considered driving distractions. Despite the risks associated with distracted driving, many drivers continue to engage in these risky behaviors. In a 2011 National Survey of Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behavior, roughly 80 percent of drivers reported talking to passengers in their vehicle, and 65 percent reported adjusting their car radio. Most people are aware of the risks associated with using a cell phone while driving. Cell phone usage is a problem, but several other types of distractions can also lead to an accident, such as:
- Eating while driving
- Assisting children or other passengers, especially those seated in the back seat
- Watching events outside of the vehicle, such as an auto accident
- Talking and interacting with passengers can be distracting for some drivers
- Personal grooming such as fixing hair or putting on make-up
- Adjusting climate controls, other vehicle features, the GPS, or the radio
- Daydreaming or allowing the mind to wander away from driving
Driving safely and avoiding potential crashes requires that drivers see a hazard, react to that hazard, and have enough time and distance to stop or otherwise avoid the hazard. Distracted drivers rarely notice hazards quickly enough to stop in time, oftentimes resulting in serious and fatal accidents.
Facts and Statistics About Distracted Driving
With cell phone usage and texting at the forefront of discussions about distracted driving, researchers around the country are studying this phenomenon from a variety of vantage points. Specific numbers vary based on the project, but here are some of the most disturbing state and national statistics and facts regarding distracted driving:
- The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that sending or reading a text message keeps your eyes off of the road for five seconds, the same amount of time it takes to drive the length of a football field at 55 mph.
- A study at Carnegie Mellon University examined brain activity in distracted drivers and found that listening to someone speak while driving reduces brain activity by 37 percent compared to driving alone.
- A 2018 study by researchers at the University of Utah found that texting is not the number one distraction for drivers; programming navigation devices actually causes more injuries.
- In 2016, the NHTSA estimates that approximately 3,500 people were killed as a result of distracted driving on the nation’s roads.
Nebraska Distracted Driving Laws
In an effort to curb distracted driving, Nebraska has joined other states in promulgating laws that restrict texting and other distracting behaviors while driving, including:
Nebraska Texting Ban
Nebraska law includes a complete texting ban, which prohibits the use of any kind of handheld device, whether to read, type, or send messages, while operating a motor vehicle that is in motion. Nebraska employs secondary enforcement on this texting ban, which means that drivers cannot get a ticket or get pulled over for texting alone; rather, they may only receive a ticket if they were stopped for another reason. Fines range from $200 to $500 and result in a three-point driver’s license penalty. Nebraska, like most other states, defines texting to include short message service, emailing, instant messaging, accessing the internet, and pressing more than one button to make a phone call.
Novice Driver Laws
The Nebraska Department of Transportation estimates that teens die in car accidents at a rate three times greater than for adults, often as a result of distracted driving. Nebraska teens that hold learners’ permits, school permits, or provisional operating permits (POP) are not only prohibited from using wireless devices and smartphones, but have occupant restrictions to reduce distractions. Once 16-year olds obtain a POP, they are prohibited from having any passengers who are under 19 and not family members in their vehicle for the first six months.
Compensation for Injuries from Distracted Driving Accidents
Nebraska is not a no-fault insurance state, which means the at-fault driver is responsible for damages from an accident. Accident victims initiate legal action by filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance carrier; the requested compensation might cover some or all of the damages, depending on the extent of the property damage, injury, and loss. Even so, keep in mind that insurance companies stay in business by limiting the number and amount of the claims that they pay. For this reason, it’s highly likely that the insurance carrier will not offer full and fair compensation, particularly in the early stages of negotiation. Retaining a reputable personal injury attorney may help you recover the following damages in a lawsuit:
- Medical costs, including ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, X-rays, surgery, follow-up visits, and prescription medication
- Future medical costs when an accident results in permanent disability or a long-term condition
- Lost wages for missing work due to an injury
- Future lost wages, also referred to as lost earning capacity, when an injury has a long recovery time or permanently prohibits a victim from returning to work
- Rehabilitation expenses, including physical therapy and assistive devices, such as prosthetic limbs, wheelchair, and canes
- Pain and suffering related to the injury
- Loss of consortium with a spouse because of an injury
- Scarring and disfigurement when severe injuries leave scars from burns, deep lacerations, and loss of limbs
Defense Strategies for Distracted Driver Accidents
Insurance carriers and other defendants are never eager to pay damages, so they will likely attempt to employ tactics meant to shift the blame away from the distracted driver. Nebraska applies a modified comparative negligence rule to personal injury cases, which means that courts reduce verdicts for the plaintiff if he or she partially caused the accident. For example, if a victim sues for $1,000,000, and the court determines that he or she was 10 percent at fault for the accident, then the court will reduce the award to $900,000.
If a defendant proves that a plaintiff was 50 percent or more at fault for an accident, Nebraska law prohibits the victim from recovering damages. Nebraska’s modified comparative negligence law gives defendants incentive to shift fault to a victim. Some defense strategies that the defense might use include:
- Arguing that the plaintiff caused the accident, regardless of distraction
- Arguing that the plaintiff was violating traffic regulations, such as speeding, driving under the influence, or driving while distracted
- Downplaying the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries by claiming that they aren’t as severe as presented
- Suggesting that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the accident, but by another event
- Arguing that the plaintiff has overvalued his or her non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc.
A seasoned personal injury attorney who has dealt with motor vehicle accidents and distracted driving cases understands how modified comparative negligence works in Nebraska. Your attorney will anticipate these types of attacks and counterclaims, and knows how to maximize the odds of a verdict in your favor.
Injured by a Distracted Driver? Get the Legal Help You Need Today!
The legal team at the Robert Pahlke Law Group has more than 85 years of combined experience negotiating, settling, and litigating personal injury cases, including many that have involved distracted drivers. We understand the mental, physical, and financial trauma that comes with a serious injury, and we are prepared to help you seek compensation for the full cost of your injuries. No one can place a dollar value on your injuries, but recovering compensation will help you gain some stability as you cope during this difficult time.
The injuries that you sustained from your crash may be painful and result in substantial medical expenses, which is why you should seek out the advice of a knowledgeable Nebraska personal injury attorney. At the Robert Pahlke Law Group, we have earned some of the highest accolades available in the industry, including being AV® rated by Martindale-Hubbell® and being selected for inclusion in the Nebraska Super Lawyers® list for 2011 and 2012, so you can rest assured that we can aggressively represent you both inside and outside the courtroom.
If you or someone that you love was injured or died because of a distracted driver, you deserve to have someone in your corner advocating for you and fighting for the best possible outcome for your case. Call the Robert Pahlke Law Group today at (308) 633-4444, or contact us online, for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case and learn how we can serve you.