Distracted Driving in South Carolina

Greenville, South Carolina Police are concerned about distracted driving with the popularity of the game Pokemon Go. News 2 reports that members of the South Carolina Highway Patrol are worried that the cell phone based game will lead to distracted driving and car accidents and injuries. Luckily, as of mid July, the Greenville Police report no accidents have been caused by the game in their jurisdiction. Distracted driving is a real problem and causes many car accidents and fatalities. In 2014, 413,000 people in the United States were involved in accidents where distracted driving was a factor, and there were 3,179 fatalities. This article looks at distracted driving in South Carolina, including the laws, consequences, and who to call if you are involved in a car wreck with a distracted driver.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is driving without your full attention on the road because you are trying to do something else while driving. Distracted driving includes texting while driving, eating while driving, looking at maps or a GPS device while driving, attending to other passengers while driving, or really doing any other activity while driving. In the last several years, distracted driving has been in the news more because of the ubiquity of cell phones and texting. 

South Carolina Cell Phone Laws 

South Carolina does now have laws addressing the use of cell phones while driving.  In 2014, South Carolina passed a law making texting while driving a violation of South Carolina code. However, at this time there is no law prohibiting talking on a cell phone while driving, handheld or not.

Does it Matter if the Other Driver was Distracted?

The short answer is “yes” – in a crash, it does matter if the other driver was distracted. The longer answer is that in order to recover damages from the other driver, the plaintiff in the case has the burden to prove that the other driver was being “negligent.” Negligent driving means that taking into account all the circumstances, the driver did not behave in a way that a rational driver would have. Therefore, by proving that the other driver was distracted, the plaintiff can help to strengthen his or her case against the distracted driver.

However, just because someone was doing something else while driving does not necessarily mean that he or she was negligent. For example, if by no fault of their own an object comes flying at a driver and it distracts him or her, the standard the court will look at is whether the driver at issue behaved in a way that a reasonable driver would. Even if a driver is texting, the statute that prohibits texting while driving states that it texting while driving is not proof of negligence in itself (per se negligence). However, while evidence of cell phone use is not in itself enough to shift the burden of proof, generally texting and driving is negligence, if not gross negligence.

Evidence of Distracted Driving 

It is not enough to just believe that the person who caused the car accident was distracted driving, you also have to prove it. Remember that the distracted driving needs to have caused the accident for it to be relevant. Some ways that a plaintiff can prove that another driver was distracted are by:

  • Using cell phone data to prove that the driver was texting, or using the phone in another way. This also includes social media postings during the timeframe of the crash.
  • Witnesses who saw the driver being distracted right before or during the crash, including passengers.
  • Evidence at the scene such as skid marks or other indicators of braking or being too distracted to brake.
  • Security camera footage.
  • Evidence in the car of food wrappers indicating the driver was eating, or makeup, or any other item that was potentially being used while driving.
  • Any other evidence that tends to indicate that a driver was distracted. 

Damages that Can Be Recovered 

If you are in a car accident with a distracted driver, you may be able to recover money damages for some of the consequences of the accident. However, you must be able to prove that the other driver was distracted, and therefore negligent, and that distraction caused the accident, which in turn caused your injuries.

South Carolina is also a comparative negligence state, which means that if the plaintiff injured driver is found to be partially responsible for the accident, then his or her recovery will be reduced in the amount that he or she was responsible. For example, if the other driver was 90 percent responsible, and the plaintiff was found 10 percent responsible, the plaintiff’s damage compensation will be reduced 10 percent, and he or she would only recover 90 percent of the damages from the defendant or his or her insurance company.

With the above in mind, there are certain categories of damages that a plaintiff can ask for from the driver that caused the accident. These categories are:

  • Medical Bills – Medical bills and other costs related to the injuries sustained in the accident.
  • Lost Wages – The money that the injured person would have made from working while he or she is unable to work due to the injuries from the accident.
  • Pain and Suffering – Compensation for the pain the injured person had to go through.
  • Property Damage – Property damage includes the cars that were involved in the accident and also any other property that was damaged. For example, if the accident takes place while you are parking in your driveway and there are damages to your garage.
  • Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are only available if there was gross negligence. Punitive damages are for the purpose of punishing a wrongdoer to make it less likely that he or she will do it again.

Greenville, South Carolina Car Accident Attorneys 

If you are injured in a car accident and you think the other driver may have been distracted, you need knowledgeable car accident attorney on your side to help find evidence and make the best case possible. Our experienced car accident attorneys at Double Aught Injury Lawyers in Greenville, South Carolina, can help you to get the damages that you deserve.