The Ultimate Distracted Driving Incident?
A vehicle exploded into a fireball after a 55-year-old man’s cellphone apparently caught fire during charging.
The incident occurred on the Crosstown Parkway. According to witnesses, the man heard a loud “pop” a moment before his Samsung Galaxy 7 burst into flame; the fire quickly spread and soon engulfed the entire vehicle. There was no word on any injuries. In the last few weeks, the South Korean manufacturer has recalled over 2.5 million Galaxy 7s amid concerns about overheating batteries, just a few days after their release. U.S. officials do not allow passengers to use these devices during flight, and some airlines refuse to check them with passenger baggage, citing the risk of fire.
Samsung Mobile posted a statement on its website recommending that “users to power down their Galaxy Note 7s and exchange them as soon as possible.” Customers in Asia should have access to replacement batteries later in September.
Exploding smartphones notwithstanding, cellphones and driving are still a dangerous combination. In fact, nearly one in five injury-related car crashes involves distracted driving. Furthermore, there is some evidence that the hands-free, touchscreen-enabled devices that are in most all newer vehicles are no safer than the hand-held variety. Using a hands-free device still meets at least one part of the government’s “distracted driving” definition, which is:
- Manual (taking at least one hand off the wheel),
- Visual (taking eyes off the road), and
- Cognitive (taking one’s mind off the road).
Additionally, hands-free devices sometimes give drivers a false sense of security, and so there may be a multiplying effect.
To combat cellphone-related distracted driving, some states have rather broad cellphone use laws. But the Sunshine State is different. 316.305 only applies to texting while driving, even though “texting” is very broadly defined as “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device” in a text, e-mail, instant message, social media post, or other communication. As a matter of fact, using a navigation feature is specifically exempted under the law.
Proving Distracted Driving
Because of the narrow law, the negligence per se shortcut is typically not available in distracted driving cases, since most distracted driving-related crashes do not involve a 316.305 violation. Instead, the victim must establish the traditional elements of a negligence case:
- Duty: Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care; a higher duty may apply to truck drivers, Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and other common carriers.
- Breach: Even routine activities like talking to passengers or adjusting the radio volume technically constitute distracted driving, so it is up to a jury to decide whether the driver was unreasonably distracted and therefore breached the duty of care.
- Cause in Fact: Lawyers sometimes refer to this element as “but-for” causation (e. the wreck would not have happened “but for” the wrongful conduct), so distracted driving must be the primary cause of the crash.
- Proximate Cause: This is a legal element that has to do with foreseeability.
- Damage: The victim must suffer actual personal injury or property damage to be eligible for compensation.
Additional punitive damages are sometimes available in distracted driving and other negligence cases.
Count On Aggressive Attorneys
Distracted drivers cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.