Gary Bell and Bradley Pollock
“There is time enough for everything, in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” Lord Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, 1747. I wonder what Lord Stanhope would think of today’s multitasking culture?
The human brain focuses better when it’s able to concentrate on a specific task. This is especially true when driving. Some distractions we can’t control – the weather, other drivers, or those kids in the back seat. But increasingly, drivers are choosing to do more while driving, sometimes with tragic results. You may have seen it before: someone with both hands on a fast food sandwich while steering with their elbows; using the rear view mirror – to put on make-up; or even a driver taking a “selfie” while behind the wheel. Of course it’s not always that egregious; a momentary lapse in concentration to change the radio station or check a text message could be all it takes. Unfortunately, these things happen more frequently than we like to think. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported more than 3,000 people a year are killed and nearly half a million more are injured in motor vehicle collisions caused by distracted drivers.
If you kill or injure someone while driving distracted you could face criminal charges as serious as vehicular homicide. The civil courts also have a system to penalize the defendant by awarding monetary damages to the injured victim as way of punishing the defendant and serve as an example to others in the community. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to the compensatory damages all at-fault drivers owe their victim for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering. The Court will award punitive damages if it’s found the driver acted deliberately and with a reckless disregard for the safety of others.
If you’re injured by a distracted driver, the insurance company will not automatically reimburse you for punitive damages owed by their insured, instead you should contact an experienced injury attorney to make sure you’re fully compensated for the consequences of poor choices made by distracted drivers.