Texting-while-driving may not be illegal in the Sunshine State, but when it leads to an accident, a driver with his eyes (and fingers) on a phone may very well be liable for any damage caused.
A lawsuit stemming from an accident in which a bicyclist was hit and killed by an allegedly texting driver was recently settled for an undisclosed amount, according to Naplesnews.com's Aisling Swift.
62 year-old James L. Caskey was killed on Aug. 12, 2008 while returning home from a morning bike ride when he was struck by a car. "In what was the first texting-while-driving lawsuit filed in Collier County, [his widow] Margaret Caskey in January 2010 sued Lawrence A. Daniels, 42, of North Naples, a pharmaceutical representative, and his employer, Astellas Pharma U.S. Inc., which owned the car," Swift reports.
Florida Highway Patrol also charged Daniels with failing to yield at a stop sign in relation to the accident, for which he was fined $1,000 and required to pay court costs. FHP did not indicate whether Daniels was texting at the time of the accident, but a later review of his cell phone records showed that he had sent one or more texts just around the time that a 911 call was placed, reporting the accident.
Florida is one of 15 states that currently does not prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. State lawmakers have considered texting-while-driving laws in each of the last six years, but a ban has thus far failed to be approved by the legislature. Under the most recently proposed measure, a driver caught texting would have been assessed up to six points on his or her driver's license.
Nevertheless, a driver who causes an accident because of texting is likely to be liable for negligence. Prior to the settlement, Collier Circuit Judge Hugh Hayes indicated that Caskey would be able to seek punitive damages, which are designed to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similarly reprehensible behavior. She would have also been able to seek compensatory damages for any medical bills and the like incurred as a result of the accident.
Auto accidents like the one in this case often occur as a result of careless, inattentive or distracted driving, which can be caused by talking on the phone, sending text messages, eating and drinking or changing radio stations. When an accident happens, the vehicle's occupants risk serious injury - broken bones, paralysis and spinal or brain injury, for example - and even death.
Drivers have a duty to safely operate their motor vehicles. Drivers breach that duty by endangering other motorists with their negligent conduct. When this happens, at-fault drivers become liable for any property damage or bodily injury "proximately caused" by their negligence.
The South Florida car accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine work hard to zealously represent clients throughout the area, including in Hialeah, Pompano Beach and Boca Raton. If you were involved in a car crash, call Anidjar & Levine's Fort Lauderdale office today at (800) 747-3733 or submit an on-line "Contact Us" form for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
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