Distracted driving has always been an important road safety topic, but the soaring popularity of smartphones has made the issue more prominent. However, less attention has been spent on other potential sources of distraction in the car. Today, we’re going to look at the risks posed when unrestrained dogs or other pets are allowed to roam in the passenger cabin, creating an extremely dangerous situation to both human and animal lives.
Pet Distraction Accident Facts
A 2011 survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) showed some shocking statistics about how Americans are driving with unrestrained dogs in their vehicles. A mere 16 percent of survey takers claimed to use a pet restraint while driving, yet as many as 83 percent admitted knowing the danger factor. Over half (52 percent) admitted to petting their dog while driving, and 23 percent of those surveyed held their dogs while using the brakes. These behaviors all take attention away from the most important task at hand—paying attention to the road.
Accidents Involving Pet Distractions
It takes just a split second for a distracted driving accident to happen when someone isn’t paying attention to the road.
For a little perspective, consider that at 65 miles per hour, a driver who takes his or her eyes off the road for just five seconds has blindly traveled the distance of over one and a half football fields, or about 159 yards. The results can be devastating for everybody involved, including the driver, the passengers in the other car, and the animal, too.
Much like an unrestrained human passenger, a dog or other pet that isn’t safely secured can be violently launched by a sudden stop while inside the cabin of the vehicle, striking hard surfaces and causing severe injury or death. An unrestrained animal could also strike the driver or other passengers, not only causing harm to the animal and human occupants of the car, but potentially even making the accident worse as the impact with the driver causes a further loss of control.
Amazingly, driving with an unrestrained animal is permitted in many jurisdictions. Only a handful of states, such as Hawaii and New Jersey, have laws that punish drivers for driving irresponsibly with their pets. Oregon is also in the process of considering new legislation to address the problem, but previous attempts at a legislative solution have failed in the past.
Liability in Pet Distraction Crashes
No matter what caused the distraction, a distracted driver who causes a crash may be found liable for the accident, and victims may be able to seek compensation in a court of law. Those who have been injured may receive a financial award to make up for expenses related to the crash, such as:
- Hospital bills and doctor visits.
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation.
- Therapy for the emotional trauma following the accident.
- Lost wages due to time spent away from work.
- Diminished future earning capacity due to an inability to continue working.
- Repair or replacement of the vehicle.
- Pain and suffering.
A personal injury attorney with experience handling distracted driving cases will be able to tell you exactly what damages you may be able to recover, help you negotiate with the insurance company of the responsible party, and will represent your interests in a court of law if a fair settlement can’t be reached.
Even if you think that you may bear some responsibility in the accident, Texas is a comparative fault state. This law allows victims to recover financial damages in court after an accident as long as the victim is determined to be less than 51 percent liable for the crash. In cases like this, the award will be reduced by the amount of fault on percentage basis. For example, this means that even if a victim is found to be ten percent responsible, he or she can still seek compensation, and his or her final award will be reduced by ten percent. Any party that is found to be 51 percent responsible or more will not be eligible to receive compensation.
Get Legal Help Today
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a distracted driver, Wayne Wright LLP would like to hear from you today. We believe in standing up for the rights of those who have suffered due to the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of others, and we want to help you and your family recover from your car accident today.
To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced personal injury professionals, call us by phone, use our contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now.