Alabama has been ranked as the fourth worst in the nation for distracted driving in a new USAA study. However, the state may not hold this unenviable distinction for very long.
Distracted driving laws in Alabama
Several months ago, Alabama's hands-free driving law was approved and immediately went into effect, making it illegal to use or hold smartphones, cellphones, and other electronic handheld devices while driving.
As phones are the top distraction, taking drivers' focus from the road, the new law is expected to reduce distracted driving and the resulting car accidents caused by inattentive motorists.
According to USAA, more than 16 percent of Alabama's drivers are operating vehicles while distracted.
Alabama's handheld device ban for drivers
The law banning the use of wireless telecommunication devices while driving includes exceptions and fines for violations. Here are the law's key points:
- You cannot be arrested solely for violating the ban. Police can only issue warnings for the offense for the first 12 months it is in effect.
- After the 12-month warning period, violating Alabama's cellphone ban for drivers is a class C misdemeanor that may result in a $50 fine and 1 point added to their driving record for a first offense.
- Fines and points increase for additional violations within 24 months of a first offense. The fine is $100 and 2 points for a second offense and $150 and 3 points for third and subsequent offenses.
- While driving, it is illegal to reach for a wireless telecommunication device in a manner that causes the driver to no longer be fully seated.
- You may only swipe or tap once to end a wireless communication while driving. Anything more is a distraction.
- Writing, sending, or reading text-based communication or internet data on a wireless device is prohibited. However, using a hands-free voice-to-text app or service is allowed.
- Watching videos, movies, etc., while driving is banned.
- Broadcasting or streaming video while driving is banned unless the device being used is for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video.
- Using a phone or other device while driving for the purposes of navigation is mostly allowed. However, physically entering coordinates or an address is prohibited.
- Drivers are allowed to use their wireless telecommunication devices to contact emergency services.
- Drivers are allowed to use their phones if the vehicle is parked on the shoulder or side of the road or highway.
- The law does not apply to radios, commercial two-way radios, prescribed medical devices, and in-vehicle navigation systems.
- Legislators named the law after a traffic safety advocate and dedicated it to victims of fatal distracted driving accidents. The full name of the act is the "Representative Koven L.' K.L.' Brown Act," enacted in memory of Leah Grace Tarvin, CiCi Lunsford, and Jay Kendall.
How insurance companies handle distracted driving claims
Insurance companies use different strategies to reduce or deny injury claims related to distracted driving accidents, with their primary objective being to minimize their financial liability. Some common tactics used in these cases include:
- Lowball Settlement Offers: Insurers may swiftly offer a settlement in the hopes that the victim will accept a lower amount due to financial pressures or lack of legal representation. These initial offers often do not fully account for the extent of the victim's damages.
- Challenging Liability: Insurance companies may contest liability by arguing that their insured driver was not at fault or that other factors, such as road conditions, contributed to the accident. This tactic can prolong the claims process and potentially result in a denial of the claim.
- Disputing Severity of Injuries: Insurers may downplay the seriousness of the victim's injuries, claiming they are not as severe as alleged. They may argue that the injuries were pre-existing or unrelated to the accident, which can lead to lower compensation offers.
- Blaming the Victim's Behavior: If possible, insurance companies may try to shift blame onto the victim, alleging that they were not following traffic laws, acted negligently, or were also distracted during the accident. This tactic can potentially reduce the driver's liability and the victim's compensation.
- Recorded Statements: Insurance adjusters may request recorded statements from the victim shortly after the accident. These statements can be later used against the victim, as any inconsistencies or statements suggesting shared fault can diminish the claim's value.
- Delays in Claims Processing: Insurers may employ tactics to delay the claims process, such as requesting excessive documentation or conducting lengthy investigations. These delays can strain the victim financially and may lead them to accept unfavorable settlements.
- Questioning the Impact of Distraction: Insurance companies may attempt to undermine the role of distraction in the accident, suggesting that it was not a significant contributing factor or that the victim's own actions were the primary cause of the collision.
It is crucial for victims of distracted driving accidents to seek experienced legal representation to counter these tactics, build a strong case, and pursue fair and just compensation for their injuries and losses. An attorney can help navigate the process of dealing with insurance companies and advocate for the victim's rights throughout the claims process.
If you were hit by a distracted driver, contact a car accident lawyer
Alabama's cell phone ban is a step in the right direction. But distracted driving has been around a lot longer than cell phones and will continue to be of concern.
If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a distracted driving accident, you need a car accident lawyer with experience handling this type of case and an attorney who knows how to secure digital evidence like phone records.
Dean Waite & Associates, LLC fights for crash victims in Alabama. Let our law firm listen to what happened, answer your questions, and give you a clear understanding of your potential legal options for compensation.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation to learn more about how we can help you. A member of our team is always available to hear from you. "Don't Hesitate… Call Dean Waite!"