April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Here’s What You Should Know If You’re Injured by an Inattentive Driver.

Even as legislative bodies strengthen laws and police ramp up enforcement, people behind the wheel dividing their attention between driving and text messages, phone calls, email, social media, and so forth remain a very real problem in Oregon and across the country. Too often, the results are serious injuries or deaths. When you or your family is harmed by someone driving while insufficiently attentive, you owe it to yourself to contact an experienced Oregon distracted driving lawyer to discuss your circumstances.

Sometimes, no one is hurt as a result of drivers’ inattention and the stories can seem a bit ridiculous — like the Washington County driver who was sufficiently distracted by a cell phone last fall that they left the road, crashed their pickup truck into a silo, and pushed that silo into a nearby barn, or the driver spotted by the Oregon State Police on Interstate 84 with not one but two hands on their cell phone while they drove.

Too many times, though, the outcome is tragic rather than absurd. Distracted driving crashes resulted in 3,500+ deaths nationwide in 2021. Here in Oregon, the state logged more than 15,500 crashes with more than 24,000 injuries from 2016-2020, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

If one looks at fatal distracted driving accidents as a percentage of all fatal crashes, Oregon ranks in the middle at 25th. In 2020, the state logged 461 crashes, 35 of which (7.6%) involved distracted drivers. For comparison, Washington was among the worst, as nearly 16.6% of all accidents there involved distracted drivers (87 out of 525.) California, on the other hand, had only 2.7% (95 out of 3,558.)

The Role a Traffic Citation May Play in Your Situation

When your serious injury case involves a distracted driver, there are several factual and legal elements that may play important roles in your case. An important piece of evidence for your side may exist if law enforcement officers cited the other driver for distracted driving. That citation may allow you to pursue compensation based on a legal theory called “negligence per se.”

In an ordinary negligence case, the law places on you the burden to prove that the at-fault driver failed to operate their vehicle with a reasonable degree of care. However, if you have proof of a citation, the law will presume that the other driver was driving in a manner that did not comport with the standard of care, thereby easing the evidentiary obligations you have.

Additionally, the law in Oregon sometimes allows a person injured by a distracted driver to seek punitive damages. Be aware, though, that punitive damages are rarely awarded in auto accident cases. A knowledgeable attorney can help you decide if pursuing punitive damages does or does not make sense as part of your case.

On top of those things, it’s possible that your accident may trigger a need to submit a claim on your own auto insurance policy based on your underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage.

Whether your case requires taking on a distracted driver in court, tackling that driver’s insurer, or battling your own insurance company, you need a legal advocate who is skilled and experienced at dealing with these matters. The knowledgeable Oregon distracted driving attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC are here to help. Our team can go over your options with you, and help you decide what path forward makes the most sense for you. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.

50 SW Pine St 3rd Floor Portland, OR 97204 Telephone: (503) 226-3844 Fax: (503) 943-6670 Email: matthew@mdkaplanlaw.com
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