If you are injured in traffic by a motorist who was texting or talking on the phone while driving, schedule a consultation immediately with a New York City personal injury attorney to discuss your right to compensation for your lost wages, your medical expenses, and related damages.

Over the last two decades, distracted driving – and in particular, operating a phone while driving – has become one of the leading causes of traffic collisions and injuries in and near New York City and throughout the United States.

What are the laws in New York that address operating a phone while driving? If you have been injured because another driver was using a phone, what are your rights as an injured victim of negligence? What steps should you take? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions.

What Is the Law?

The law in New York prohibits all motorists from engaging in conversations on a handheld phone while driving a vehicle that is in motion. A driver must use a hands-free device in order to have a legal phone conversation while a vehicle is moving.

For commercial drivers, the handheld phone ban also applies when the vehicle is temporarily stopped for reasons like traffic, stop signs, and red lights. Along with phone conversations, the law in New York also makes it illegal to drive while holding an electronic device and:

  1.  reading, writing, sending, and browsing emails, texts, and web pages
  2.  transmitting or viewing images, such as taking photographs while driving
  3.  playing games

What Are the Penalties for Using a Hand-Held Phone While You Drive?

Anywhere in New York, a police officer who sees you using a cell phone may stop and cite you. Exceptions that allow for using electronic devices are phones attached to a dashboard (“hands-free” phones), GPS devices attached to a dashboard, and the use of a phone for an emergency.

A conviction for using a hand-held phone while a vehicle is in motion may be penalized with a fine of:

  1.  $50 to $200 for the first offense
  2.  $50 to $250 for a second offense within 18 months
  3.  $50 to $450 for a third offense within 18 months
  4.  A conviction also imposes five Driver Violation Points on your license.

A New York driver who compiles more than six Driver Violation Points within 18 months must pay the Driver Responsibility Assessment Fee of $300 plus $75 for each additional point. If you compile eleven points or more in an 18-month period, your driver’s license will be suspended.

How Dangerous Is Using A Handheld Phone While Driving?

Using a handheld phone while driving is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. The National Safety Council now claims that texting while driving is a direct cause of over 1.5 million accidents each year.

This is why many in New York believe that the penalties for using a handheld phone while driving should be more severe and should be more in line with the penalties for driving while intoxicated. Drivers using phones pose the same risk to the public as intoxicated drivers pose.

Almost one in four traffic accidents now involves texting while driving. Research conducted by AAA tells us that texting while driving causes cognitive distraction, which means that a texting driver is not paying attention to the task of driving.

At sixty miles per hour, for example, a vehicle moves the length of a football field in less than four seconds. Taking your attention away from driving to use a handheld phone, even for a moment, can be disastrous.

What Steps Should You Take If a Driver Using a Phone Injures You?

Hand-held phones, of course, are only one of the many distractions that drivers must deal with in and near New York City. Other common distractions for drivers include eating, grooming, handling pets and children, and daydreaming.

After a traffic accident, the top priority is seeking medical treatment and determining if others need medical attention. The next priority is summoning law enforcement. When the police arrive, ask them how and when you can acquire a copy of the written accident report.

Obtain as much information as you can from the other motorist: name, contact details, address, driver’s license and tag numbers, and auto insurance contact details. If the other motorist is too hostile, impaired, or injured to cooperate, ask the officers to help you obtain what you need.

Take Photos and Talk to the Witnesses

If you can, also take photographs of the damaged vehicles, the overall crash site, and your own visible injuries. You can’t take too many. Your photographs may be convincing evidence should you pursue a personal injury claim.

If any eyewitnesses saw the collision, also try to obtain their names and contact details. The testimony and statements of strangers may also be convincing evidence in support of your personal injury claim.

When Should You Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If the crash happened in or near New York City, after you have been examined and/or treated by a medical professional, your next priority is to schedule a meeting with a New York City personal injury lawyer.

Your lawyer will explain your legal rights and discuss your options. If you choose to take legal action, your lawyer will begin negotiations with the at-fault motorist’s automobile insurance company to acquire the compensation you need.

The other driver’s insurance company may offer you a settlement figure that is substantially below what your personal injury claim is actually worth. Reject such offers and let your New York City personal injury attorney do the talking and negotiating for you.

How Are Most Personal Injury Claims Resolved in New York?

When the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, you should refer the company to your attorney, so seek legal help as quickly as you can.

Your lawyer will be an experienced negotiator who negotiates routinely with auto insurance companies – and who knows what it takes to win. Most personal injury claims are resolved outside of the courtroom, so you may not even have to appear in court.

However, if your claim is disputed or if no reasonable settlement offer is made, your lawyer may take your case to trial, explain to the jurors what happened, and ask the jury to order the payment of your compensation.

If you are injured by a driver using a handheld phone in or near New York City, as soon as you have been examined and/or treated for your injury, make the call to a New York City personal injury lawyer. If you are an injured victim of negligence, a good lawyer’s help is your right.