distracted driving liability in California

Distracted Driving Liability in California: LA Car Accident Lawyer Explains California Law

Injured by a Distracted Driver?  Ask Our LA Car Accident lawyer for Help

Distracted driving is a big problem in the United States, including California.  New research reveals distracted driving is worse in California than drunk driving.  The main culprit is using a cell phone while driving, especially text messaging.  The Office of Traffic Safety provides that 62% of California drivers have reported to being hit or almost hit by another driver who was using their cell phone while driving.  However, districted driving also includes changing the radio station, programming the GPS or looking at the GPS, interacting with passengers, or otherwise pulling either attention, a hand, or eyes off of the road—which texting while driving does all three.  If you have been injured by another motorist who was texting while driving, learn about distracted driving liability in California and how our experienced Los Angeles distracted driving accident lawyer can help you.

Here at the Broadway Law Firm, we offer FREE consultations to learn what your rights may be under California law.  We also pay the upfront costs of litigation and we only get paid if we recover compensation for you.  Learn how we can help protect your rights after a serious distracted driving accident in California by calling 213.444.3155 to schedule your free consultation with our experienced legal team.

Why Distracted Driving is Dangerous: Shocking Statistics

What makes distracted driving so dangerous is that it can pull a person’s attention, eyes, and hand or hands off of the wheel.  These are the three ways that we can operate a motor vehicle safely.  Without these traits, it is near impossible for that to occur.

Some of the shocking statistics regarding distracted driving from End Distracted Driving include the following:  

  • Texting while driving increases the chance for an accident 23 times more
  • The average time taken off of the road to text is 4.6 seconds
  • A driver is 4-5 times more likely to be in a car accident while talking on the telephone
  • 26% of all motor vehicle collisions involve at least one motorist on the phone, sometimes both
  • Drivers on the phone may process 50% less of their environment than a driver who is paying full attention

Liability for Distracted Driving Car Accidents in Los Angeles 

When a distracted driving causes a serious car accident in California, there are two ways to establish liability.  Oftentimes you can use multiple theories of recovery, or multiple causes of action (claims) against a defendant in order to recover damages.  The two general ways to establish a distracted driving car accident include through the common law or through the statutory law.

Common Law

The first way is through the common law, or judge-made law that is creating through decades of judicial decision writing.  The common law sets standards that reflect public sentiment.  In a distracted driving car accident, the common law applies a negligence standard.  Negligence is when one person unreasonably increases the foreseeable risk of harm to another.  In a negligence lawsuit like a car accident, a plaintiff will need to establish that the other driver had a duty of care, breached that duty, and the breach caused damages to the plaintiff.

The duty of care is that all motorists owe others on or around the roadway a duty to exercise reasonable care in the use or operation of their motor vehicle.  This includes seeing what there is to be seen, following traffic laws, driving defensively, and otherwise driving as a reasonably prudent person.  Texting while driving, using a cell phone, or playing with the GPS likely fail to upload this duty.

If this breach of the duty causes personal injuries to an individual in a California car accident, it is likely that the defendant will be liable under the cause of action for negligence through the common law.

Statutory Law

Statutory law is made through the Legislature, and following formal rule-making processes.  Relating to distracted driving, California Vehicle Code provides under section 23123.5 (a) that “[a] person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.”  Therefore, we know that a motorist who is using a cell phone or other electronic device while driving is likely violating this section of law.

A plaintiff injured by a motorist who is violating this statute can use that violation to automatically prove liability through the doctrine of negligence per se.  In order to establish negligence per se, a plaintiff most prove the following:

  • Defendant violated the statute
  • The statute was meant to protect the class of persons that the plaintiff is (i.e., motorist, pedestrian, etc.)
  • The statute was meant to prevent the plaintiff from suffering the harm that the plaintiff sustained (i.e, TBI, SCI, broken bones).

Generally, any distracted driving accident in California will involve the person who is protected by the statute as the “class of persons” and within the “class of harms.”  This means that an injured plaintiff could automatically establish liability in most instances.

Ask the Broadway Law Firm for Help With Your Case


If you or a loved one were seriously injured by a distracted driver, or if a loved one was wrongfully killed by a distracted driver, call the Broadway Law Firm for a FREE consultation to learn how we can help protect your rights to compensation under California law.  Our experienced staff will work with your treating physicians to prove your damages, while hiring some of the leading liability experts to establish fault against a defendant.  Learn more by dialing 213.444.3155 or using our easy-to-use contact us box available by clicking the link here.

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