New Jersey State Bar Association
Bergen County Bar Association

Car Accidents Related to Cell Phones

Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer Advocating for Bergen County Residents

Distracted driving is a huge problem in New Jersey and across America. Distracted driving occurs when drivers turn their attention away from responding to issues that arise on the road to something else. Full attention should be given to driving, but drivers often pay attention to other things, including texts, cell phone calls, kids in the back seat, pets, food, or make-up. Car accidents related to cell phones are increasingly common on highways and other roads in New Jersey. In 2011, New Jersey experienced 1,840 hand-held cell phone-related crashes, which resulted in six deaths and 807 injuries. At Leopold Law, Bergen County car accident attorney Howard Leopold may be able to represent you in a lawsuit for damages after a car accident related to another driver's use of a cell phone.

Car Accidents Related to Cell Phones

New Jersey follows a choice no-fault system whereby, most of the time, you turn to your own no-fault insurance for economic losses up to the policy limits. In most cases, you can only recover pain and suffering damages if you suffer a serious injury as it is defined by law. However, if you do suffer a serious injury, you can recover medical expenses and lost wages up to a certain amount from your own insurer, while you also can bring a negligence claim to recover economic damages that you suffered that exceed the coverage limits, as well as damages for your pain and suffering.

New Jersey Motor Vehicle Act 39:4-97.3 prohibits the use of a cell phone while driving a car, unless it is a hands-free device. Texting is also forbidden. A cited driver faces a potential $200-$400 fine for a first offense. If it is a second offense within 10 years of the first offense, the fine is $400-$600, and for a third offense, it is $600-$900. A fourth offense can result in a 90-day suspension of a driver's license and three points. However, more serious than these penalties is the possibility that a driver using a cell phone will injure or kill someone else. Under the Kulesh, Kubert, and Bolis Law, a jury can infer that a driver who used a hand-held cell phone and caused injuries in an accident may be guilty of the fourth-degree crime of assault by auto.

In most cases, if there is a car accident caused by cell phone use, a jury will find liability. In general, to establish liability, your attorney needs to prove negligence by showing that the defendant owed a duty of care, the defendant breached that duty of care, and causation and actual damages were present. Most juries will find that texting or talking on the phone while driving a motor vehicle is negligent.

Moreover, it may be possible to establish negligence per se if the defendant was cited or arrested for a violation of a safety law related to cell phone use. Negligence per se, or negligence as a matter of law, exists when the defendant violated a safety law designed to protect a class of which the plaintiff is a member. For a plaintiff, it can be helpful to establish negligence per se because the duty of care is clearly defined under the law, and the emphasis of the case shifts to the extent of the damages.

More than one person can be held responsible for a texting or cell phone accident in New Jersey. In a controversial case, a teenager was texting while driving and drove into oncoming traffic, resulting in both people on a motorcycle losing a leg. The couple sued the teenage driver and also sued the teen texting with him. Although the lower court dismissed the claim against the non-driver who was texting, the appellate court held that a person sending texts owes a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texting person has a special reason to know that the recipient will look at the text while driving. The non-driver in that specific case was not shown to have this knowledge, but the case expanded potential liability for car accidents related to cell phones.

Discuss Your Case with a Car Accident Lawyer in Bergen County

If you are hurt in a rear-end collision or another car accident related to cell phones in Bergen County or the surrounding areas, it is important to retain knowledgeable counsel. Call Attorney Howard Leopold in New Jersey at (201) 345-5907 or in New York at (646) 650-2106. Our firm represents people in Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, and Essex Counties and throughout Northern New Jersey, as well as in some areas of New York.

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