Cell phone follies

 In Serious Personal Injury & Wrongful Death

The following article is a guest post by George Fox, of Fox+Mattson, published with permission, and the approval and editing of Chandler Law.

If someone dared you, would you close your eyes for three seconds while driving down GA-400? If you take your eyes off the road for three seconds at 25mph, you’ve traveled about 110 feet. And it would of course be further if you were going faster.

Crazy,” you’d say. “Why would I want to do something that stupid and dangerous? Especially when I could avoid all sorts of ugly consequences by not closing my eyes.”

Now let’s consider how long you look at your cell phone when dialing a number. Or how long you look at the cell phone to decide if you want to talk to the caller, and then answer the call. What if someone sends a text message to your phone—how long does it take to click and read it?

It’s likely more than three seconds in each case. And those are three seconds when your eyes aren’t on GA-400, or whatever road you’re on.

Obviously, you shouldn’t engage in distracted driving personally. But if you’re an employer, you should also definitely prohibit your employees from making business calls for you while driving.

A case study: the lawyer who was using her cell phone

Consider a real case: an attorney was driving home one evening, and was talking to a client on her cell phone. The cell phone was enabling her to add to her billable hours.

It was dark on those Virginia roads, and at some point, she thought she felt a slight bump, but couldn’t see anything and didn’t think any more about it.

The next morning, though, she saw a TV news story about an unknown hit-and-run driver who had killed a 15- year-old girl walking on a road’s shoulder. And the attorney realized what that bump was.

She turned herself in to the police. She eventually pleaded guilty to hit-and-run, a felony. She served her sentence in a work-release program. And when the girl’s parents brought a civil action, a jury found her personally liable for $2 million.

She also lost her license to practice law.

But then her law firm employer was also sued, for $30 million. The argument: the attorney was doing firm business on her cell phone when she caused the accident. In fact, the firm had encouraged its employees to use cell phones for that purpose.

The firm settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum.

Other cases

That case started a trend. Another company paid $16.2 million after one of its employees using a cell phone on company business hit a 78-year-old woman, leaving her severely disabled.

A public school teacher was driving and talking on her cell phone. She hit a man walking across the highway. The state paid that man’s estate $1.5 million.

And a Georgia employer paid $5.2 million to settle a case in which its employee was talking on the cell phone, and speeding so fast that she forced the car in front of her off the road. The driver of that other car had her arm amputated.

Final thoughts

So presuming you would never take your eyes off the road for three seconds:

If you’re an employer, do you really want your employees to do your company’s business on a cell phone while driving?

If you are an employee, do you really want to jeopardize your personal assets, as well as your employer’s, by making calls which really could wait?

As far as we can tell, nobody talking on a cell phone has ever hit another person when their car was pulled over on a road’s shoulder, or in a parking lot, or in a driveway.

Caveat driver...

Chandler Law handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases involving automobiles and tractor trailers. Some of the cases handled involved the use of cell phones or other distracting devices. To discuss your options after a wreck, call Chandler Law.

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