Michigan Auto Law attorney Steve Gursten speaks to Michigan Association for Justice on best practices for lawyers to discover and use evidence of distracted driving in auto accident cases
We know distracted driving has caused a shocking increase in car accidents. But how can a personal injury lawyer find out if distracted driving played a role in causing a car crash? And how can a lawyer use this evidence when litigating cases involving distracted driving accidents?
I’ll be discussing how Michigan’s personal injury attorneys can do exactly this when I present on “Distracted Driving: Legal Issues and Tactics,” as part of the Michigan Association for Justice’s (MAJ) two-day No-Fault Law Institute XIV at The Dearborn Inn in Dearborn. I’ve been very privileged to be a speaker at all 14 of the previous No-Fault Law Institute seminars.
In my presentation — scheduled for Tuesday, September 26, at 1:50 p.m. — I’ll go over how personal injury lawyers can discover and use evidence of texting and distracted driving in civil cases, such as in the investigation and legal discovery phases of an auto accident lawsuit.
Dangerously high trends behind distracted driving accidents
Conferences like the MAJ’s annual No-Fault Law Institute help Michigan injury lawyers better protect auto accident victims, especially now that trends are dangerously high for distracted driving accidents.
How bad have distracted driving car accidents become?
- Fatalities from distracted driving accidents in Michigan increased approximately 50% from 2015 to 2016 — from 28 to 42 fatalities, according to Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center data.
- Further, the State Police say, distracted driving accidents in Michigan increased approximately 70% from 2015 to 2016 — from 7,516 to 12,787 crashes,
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports nearly 3,500 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015 alone.
- Several studies have reported distracted driving is more dangerous than drunk driving.
With appalling numbers of car accidents like these, it’s no wonder that distracted driving — in particular, texting and driving — is showing up more and more in the serious auto accident injury cases that I and the other lawyers here at Michigan Auto Law litigate. The only difference is we are one of the few law offices in Michigan that are routinely looking for evidence of distracted driving in our car crash cases. Hopefully this upcoming legal seminar for the Michigan trial lawyers will change that, as this is too important a safety issue to keep as proprietary within our office. And hopefully if more injury lawyers are doing this, we can better protect the public and help provide a meaningful deterrent to people who regularly text and drive.
Right now, police enforcement has been incredibly disappointing. Texting and driving is a primary offense in Michigan, meaning a police office can stop a car and issue a ticket if he or she suspects a driver is texting and driving, but Michigan issues just a fraction of the tickets for texting and driving compared to other states.
In fact, unless there was a fatality at the scene that required a fatal accident investigation by law enforcement that includes checking and downloading the cellphones of drivers, cellphones are almost never checked by police at accident scenes for evidence of distracted driving.
Also, distracted driving usually leaves clues. I advise lawyers look at the type of car crash, which can often suggest distracted driving played a causal role. If the driver didn’t brake, for example, or failed to stay in his lane, or drove right through a red light, these types of car crashes suggest distracted driving. So do witness testimony that someone was “looking down” just before they were rear-ended.
The Michigan Association for Justice is the state’s largest organization of personal injury lawyers and consumer protection lawyers. The MAJ represents the needs of accident victims and victims of consumer fraud and insurance company abuse.
The No-Fault Institute XIV runs Sept. 25-26. For more information or to register, visit here.