More and more lawyers practicing in the area of accident law are seeing cases involving negligence or fault of a driver who crashes while driving and texting or using their cell phone. I'm seeing a lot more discovery focused on cell phone use of the driver at the time of the accident.
The drivers who are texting might want to know what happens after the lawsuit is filed. The lawyers start asking a lot of questions about cell phone use and demanding records from the driver. The focus is for the cell phone records and if you don't have them they subpoena the monthly billing statement from your cell phone carrier.
The lawsuit papers (the Petition) state a claim for punitive damages. That's because in many instances the distraction and slowed reaction times are as bad as or worse than driving drunk. Punitive damages may or may not be covered by auto insurance policies. That means it comes out of your pocket, the wallet of the driver and perhaps the car or truck owner.
This is a warning to drivers, if you're using a cell phone while driving chances are the lawyers will find out and the jury will hear about it. That doesn't help your case if you're claiming you weren't at fault for the collision. And this doesn't just apply to defendant drivers. I'm talking to plaintiff drivers too. In Iowa, like many states, we have comparative fault. If both drivers are texting while driving then they both are distracted; and if evidence proves cell phone usage each can be at fault under the law.
So ask do you really have time to text while driving?
Lawsuit Discovery - Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents - The client's duty to disclose the truth.
Interrogatories are simply legal questions sent to you through your lawyer by the opposing lawyer. Under Iowa's Rules of Civil Procedure that is standard practice. If you're in a car accident you should expect to receive questions along the lines of did you have cell phone service at the time of the collision? Did you have your cell phone in the car? Was it being used? What is the cell phone service you use?
You should never lie or hide evidence that should go without me saying it, but there are those who think they are smarter than the average bear and do. Remember along with those interrogatories go requests for production of documents seeking the production of your cell phone bills and records. And if that doesn't get the job done there is always a subpoena to the cell phone company that will get copies of records showing times of calls and number called. That information will lead to another deposition of the person on the other end of the call. Oops you say? Yeah, so never lie.
And then remember there will more than likely be a deposition. That's where you are placed under oath and asked questions like who, what, where, when and how the accident happened. Your use of the cell phone will come up as will what other distractions were affecting the drivers. Your case can go easy or it can be a difficult road. Why make it more difficult? It's in your control.
Sometimes the message is put forth in a funny way but texting while driving is not funny. It kills, injures and destroys lives. I've written about this many times. Be safe, be careful and put down the cell phone. At the Lombardi Law Firm we'd rather not see you for a personal injury accident.
This video is pretty graphic so if you're having a bad day it may not be your best choice for viewing. On the other hand, if you're a parent and would like to get the point across to your teenaged child the message will be clear. Pay attention to your driving and not the cell phone.
If you think using your cell phone while driving is fun, watch this PSM from the Brits in South Wales. The PSM cost $20,000 to make and it's worth every cent.
Here is what CBS says about it.