An $8.8 million award to the family of a Miami woman killed in a texting while driving accident has drawn attention to Florida’s lack of distracted driving laws. In 2008, the woman and her husband were struck by a teen driver who was not only texting, but speeding at the time of the accident. The woman died at the scene; her husband suffered substantial injuries.
At the time of the accident, the teen was charged with speeding and reckless driving. Various drugs were also found in his vehicle. As details emerged, it was discovered that the 17-year-old was texting his girlfriend when the accident occurred and had sent 127 texts that day. The defendant maintained that he had sent the text while sitting at a stop-sign prior to the accident, but the plaintiff’s evidence combined with the teen’s speeding and erratic lane changes were enough to convince the jury to award in favor of the plaintiff.
Although the teen paid fines and lost his license for speeding and reckless driving charges, he was never charged with vehicular homicide and there were not criminal penalties for his phone activity. Why? Because Florida has no laws against calling, texting, sending emails, or otherwise manipulating electronic devices while driving.
While 35 U.S. states have banned texting while driving, Florida has resisted the laws for ten years being one of only 15 states that have no laws governing cell-phone use in vehicles, and cities and counties are not allowed to implement their own bans. A number of efforts again failed in 2011, including a measure that would require the DMV to educate drivers on the dangers of electronic distractions. Six new potential laws are in the works for 2012. “If you have DUI laws, why don’t you have texting laws?” said the plaintiff’s attorney. The family hopes the verdict brings "a significant public awareness" to the problem of distracted driving from cell phones and texting.
Texting while driving is a serious problem in the United States; sensible legislation is a necessary start to stopping this dangerous activity. Let’s hope this case will at least bring more awareness to other drivers about the dangers of texting and driving. Whether or not your state has cell phone or texting laws, keep both hands on the wheel, both eyes on the road and pay attention to your surroundings. Isn’t it time to focus on safe driving? Distracted driving can change your life in an instant – or in 10 characters.
Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.