An over-the-shoulder shot of a driver on a phone call while driving a car.Distracted driving is a major threat to public health and safety, in Connecticut and throughout the United States. Drivers who carelessly browse their social feeds or even hold their phone during a call can smash into other vehicles — or even pedestrians and cyclists — in the blink of an eye.

Connecticut law forbids device use and many other common forms of distraction, but these types of accidents still occur with alarming frequency. One thing that injury victims can take solace in, though, is that they have the option to pursue a claim for all damages they have suffered.

This includes their medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket costs, and even their personal pain and suffering.

To get a settlement, they have to prove their case. That’s where Bert McDowell and his team of experienced personal injury lawyers can come in.

At Bert McDowell Injury Law, our persistent, no-nonsense approach has allowed us to recover millions in damages for other clients. While we can’t guarantee a win for every case, we promise to fight as hard as we can to prove liability and go after the money you need.

Find out how we can help you and what your case could be worth when you call us at (203) 590-9169 or contact us online today.

Common Types of Distractions to Observe

While smartphone use has become one of the most persistent forms of distraction, it is not the only type. Other ways a driver can become distracted include:

  • Listening to loud music
  • Eating or drinking
  • Applying makeup
  • Reading
  • Talking with passengers
  • Dealing with children or pets
  • Fiddling with something, like a cell phone case
  • Reaching to grab something dropped on the floor
  • Looking at wrecks or other distractions outside the vehicle

Witness Statements, Including Your Own, Are Powerful Evidence to Prove Distracted Driving

Many of the people who cause wrecks while being distracted will take a simple tactic to get out of it: they’ll lie. That, or they will deny certain bits of information while leaving out the rest.

In many cases, the distracted driver will simply avoid mentioning exactly what they were doing, and no one will call them out on it. The risk of this happening is why it’s so critical that you — and everyone else at the scene — speak up.

Eyewitness statements are a key component of building a case for distracted driving liability. You or someone else may have seen the at-fault driver physically holding their phone, a sandwich, or looking elsewhere around their vehicle at the time of the crash.

Other signs that can indicate distracted driving can be seen in the way the at-fault party was driving immediately before the accident occurred. Examples of behavior that can indicate they were distracted at the time include:

  • Swerving in their lane
  • Meandering out of their lane
  • Changing lanes or maneuvering in front of someone without the clearance to make it
  • Completely missing traffic signals, pedestrians, or other traffic during a turn or other maneuver
  • Disregarding speed limits, especially after a change in speeds near the site of the accident
  • Driving slower than 10 MPH below the speed limit
  • Sudden braking
  • Delayed reactions, especially to slowed or stopped traffic
  • Failing to signal before a turn or lane change
  • Loud music or conversation heard prior to the crash
  • A car full of rowdy and energetic people
  • Devices other than a smartphone (such as a tablet or laptop) clearly accessible, open, and ready for use
  • Following too closely

If you or someone else present at the accident scene noticed any of these signs or any obvious distractions, it should be noted on the police report. Make sure to get contact information of witnesses, too, so that you can follow up and obtain another statement that could be used in your injury claim.

A Police Report Should Note Distracted Driving (But Doesn’t Always)

Police citations and information noted on the report is another potent form of evidence indicating that someone was distracted at the time of the accident.

Connecticut Law requires that any smartphones used for navigation or communication are placed in a hands-free device while the vehicle is in gear. Drivers 16-18 are completely forbidden from using any device while driving, period, regardless of whether they have a hands-free device.

Law enforcement has been cracking down on this issue, too. An October 2022 press release notes that phone distractions are a persistent problem, contributing to 5,400 crashes in 2021 alone. Fines for violations start at $200 for the first offense, increasing to $375 the second time , and $625 for each offense past that. Unfortunately, there’s no risk of having a license suspended, but costly fines are supposed to act as a deterrent.

In accordance with these laws, police will note any evidence provided to them that the driver was distracted. This evidence certainly includes witness statements, but they will also examine other factors, such as the scene of the accident itself. Tire marks indicating late braking in an intersection or after a stop sign, for example, are telltale ways of knowing that someone wasn’t fully paying attention before the crash.

Police officers responding to the scene will issue a citation for any suspected distracted driving violations. However, they will only issue a ticket for use of certain visual devices. Radios, dedicated GPS tools, and other such devices are permitted for use — even if they can be just as distracting.

Also, police may fail to issue a citation if evidence is unclear. Just because a citation was issued doesn’t mean the driver wasn’t distracted! Make sure to have any evidence you and other witnesses can provide noted on the report, even if it doesn’t result in a fine against the negligent driver.

Other Types of Evidence That Can Be Used to Prove Distracted Driving

In addition to police report findings and eyewitness accounts, there are many other ways to prove that someone was distracted.

Cell Phone and Internet Records

In some cases, you and your attorney may be able to subpoena phone records from the carrier that provides service to the at-fault driver’s device. These records can show that the driver was actively engaged in conversation (illegal if no hands-free device was used) or was using something other than a navigation app, based on their data.

Carriers can sometimes refuse to provide this information, so it can also help to access publicly viewable evidence of device usage, such as a post on a social media website made at the time of or immediately prior to the crash.

Vehicle Contents

While the presence of a possible distraction could be seen as circumstantial, sometimes it is all that is needed to confirm that the driver was likely to have their eyes and mind off the road at the time of the crash.

The driver could have any of the following in their vehicle to hint at a possible distraction:

  • Unwrapped food
  • Unsecured pets
  • Makeup removed from its protective container
  • Reading materials
  • An open and accessible device
  • Work papers, open and accessible
  • Active vehicle touch screen controls, indicating recent use

Surveillance Footage

Dashcam footage as well as footage from nearby businesses and residential properties can sometimes provide irrefutable proof of a distraction. Because this footage can be quickly overwritten, make sure that you and your car accident attorney move fast to uncover and collect it, when possible.

There may also be other cameras installed to identify speeders, red light runners, and other traffic violators. Photos from these devices can often show a driver clearly using their phone or otherwise distracted while committing a violation.

Expert Testimony From Crash Reconstructionists

Sometimes, it isn’t necessary to prove the exact type of distraction a driver was engaged in at the time of the accident. Instead, it is only needed to prove that someone driving carefully would not have committed the same mistakes they did.

Evidence of delayed reactions, likely attributing to a distraction, can often can be found all over the scene, including:

  • The position of the vehicles, such as if the driver was well into an intersection while they had a red light
  • Tire and braking marks
  • Damage to unsecured devices
  • A failure to swerve or attempt to avoid the collision, up until the moment it happened
  • The number and seating position of other occupants of the vehicle

Our Attorneys Fight to Prove Distractions and Hold Careless Parties At-Fault

When an accident happens, there are often few — if any — excuses for the driver that caused the crash. Even if they want to say that they weren’t distracted, there is still a host of evidence that can indicate they failed to observe traffic, obey all laws, and generally operate their vehicle with the level of prudence and safety that is expected.

In distracted driving cases, at-fault parties are all-too-prone to tell on themselves, often in subtle ways. They may admit to buying fast food, for example, with no statement as to how it became half-eaten during the trip to their next destination.

They may also have no other reason for doing something foolish, like running a red light or completely failing to notice a pedestrian crossing through their turning path.

The fact is that distracted driving can seriously hurt and even kill. We take these cases seriously, which is why we fight as hard as we can to prove liability and go after all at-fault parties for the full extent of damages from which you have suffered.

So if you have unpaid medical bills, lost income from missed work, and other losses stemming from a distracted driving accident, know that our experienced Connecticut car accident attorneys are here and ready to work for you. Schedule your free, no-obligation case review to find out your options for proving distracted driving and seeking damages when you call us at (203) 590-9169 or contact us online.