Texting and driving is an especially serious problem that is responsible for thousands of injuries and even deaths from car accidents. If you or a loved one was hurt in a texting and driving accident, you could be entitled to file a lawsuit for your injuries, but these cases always have serious challenges.
In Tennessee, texting and driving is a specific traffic violation. This means that you can use is at grounds for an injury lawsuit after a crash, but there are challenges in implementing these cases. While you can get evidence that the driver was texting, and you can certainly get evidence that their distraction was what caused your crash, it is often difficult to procure the right evidence to absolutely prove to a jury that texting was involved in the crash. Even so, these cases are often still quite strong.
For a free case evaluation for your car accident case, call Howe Law’s Tennessee car accident lawyers today at (844) 876-4357.
Texting and Driving as Grounds for a Car Accident Claim in Tennessee
Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-199, it is illegal to even hold a cell phone while driving, let alone read, write, or send text messages. You can use a phone for navigation, but texting or messaging while driving is strictly against the law. What this means is that you can typically use a claim of texting and driving as the basis for your car accident case.
In any car accident claim, our Tennessee personal injury lawyers will have to point to a breach of duty that the other driver committed. Following the texting and driving statute is a very specific duty meant to keep people safe on the road, so a violation of § 55-8-199 can constitute proof of “negligence” in a car accident claim. From there, we merely need to prove that that texting and driving violation was what actually caused your accident and that you suffered damages as a result. Your injuries constitute “damages” in and of themselves, along with any medical bills, lost earnings, other costs, and pain and suffering related to the accident.
This statute is pretty clear-cut and concise, and there are not many legal questions as to when the statute applies. As such, evidence that the driver was texting and driving – or an admission that they were texting while driving – is going to be very helpful in proving your case.
Proving a Driver was Texting During a Crash in Tennessee
Actually proving that the other driver was texting or reading a text when the accident occurred is actually a surprisingly complex issue in car accident cases, and it is not always possible.
Eyewitness Testimony About Texting
If you affirmatively saw the driver texting in the moments leading up to the crash, then you can testify that you actually saw them texting. This is powerful evidence and is going to be one of the strongest pieces of evidence to prove texting and driving. Similarly, if another witness or a passenger in the vehicle saw them texting, they cannot lie on the stand and must admit to what they saw when they testify under oath. If the driver had a dash cam or was caught on a traffic camera with their phone in their hand, this is also great evidence that they were distracted.
Admissions of Texting While Driving
Another great piece of evidence that the driver was texting and driving is their own admission. This might have happened in the aftermath of the accident, where a driver might say something like, “I looked down at my phone for a second,” or “I was just hitting ‘Send,’ and then I crashed.” In many cases, drivers are reluctant to admit fault, so this evidence is not often available.
Problems with Evidence
Many people think that getting the driver’s phone records or copies of texts will be strong evidence, but this evidence can often be questioned to the point where it actually becomes quite weak. A log from the phone company might not be easy to obtain, for one. Second, the log might not quite match up with the phone’s or text app’s internal tracking as far as timestamps on texts go, potentially allowing the defendant to question the validity of these records. Moreover, the timestamps on the phone merely show that the text was sent or received. They do not show whether perhaps a passenger typed the text, someone replied for the driver from another device, the driver used a speech-to-text system to narrate the text, or that something else legal happened.
Additionally, just because someone received a text around the time of the crash does not mean that they actually picked up the phone and read it. If their phone does not track when messages were opened or they merely glanced over at the phone without touching it, what they did might not be illegal.
Another consideration is that there are legal reasons to have a phone in your hand while driving, such as using it as a GPS navigation tool. If the other driver had their phone in their hand, it might be difficult to claim that they were texting or reading a text instead of using the phone for a lawful purpose.
How the Burden of Proof Helps Texting and Driving Accident Victims in Tennessee
Ultimately, you do not need to provide absolute proof that the driver was texting while driving to win your case. This “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden is not used in civil cases, only criminal ones. Instead, you only need to prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the driver was texting while driving.
The proof that you provide does not need to convince a jury to a high degree; they merely need to believe it is more likely than not that your claim is true. As such, if you saw the driver with their phone in their hand, they sent a text around the same time as the crash, and the crash is the kind of accident that only happens when someone is distracted, a jury can conclude that they were texting, even without absolute proof.
Even if there are some “reasonable doubts” about the texting, the burden of proof is far lower than that standard, and a jury can rule in your favor based on what seems most likely.
Contact Our Tennessee Car Accident Lawyers for Help Today
Contact Howe Law’s Nashville car accident attorney for help with your case today by calling (844) 876-4357.