How to Prove Negligence in a Distracted Driver Car Accident

The statistics surrounding Las Vegas car accidents caused by distracted driving are staggering. Most of these accidents could have been easily prevented.

The purpose of this blog is to advise on Nevada’s laws that apply to distracted driving and the legal process to prove these claims. Before getting into the legal process of proving negligence, let’s start with the basics.

The Definition of Distracted Driving

The definition is self-explanatory: the driver’s attention is diverted when performing an act that distracts attention from the road. From web-browsing, keying in an address into the GPS, and changing clothes, most distracted driving accidents occur when a driver is either texting or speaking into a handheld phone. The focus of the blog will be on these majority causes.

NRS 484B.165, Nevada’s Distracted Driving Laws

Since 2012, using a handheld cell phone, texting, and accessing the internet while driving have been banned throughout the state for all drivers. There are exceptions for calls relating to medical emergencies and reporting a road hazard. The fines for violations can range from $50-$250.

Now, let’s focus on the claim and the burdens of proving negligence.

The Claim

A claim brought by the injured party to recover the damages resulting from an accident caused by a distracted driver falls under Nevada’s personal injury laws. In all Las Vegas personal injury cases, the party instituting the lawsuit, the plaintiff, has the burden of proving the other driver was distracted. If the accident involves multiple vehicles, then it is possible for multiple claims to be filed in one accident.

Proving Negligence in a Distracted Driving Claim

In addition to the typical evidence of the police report, videos and photos of the scene, and eyewitness reports comes the technology of the mobile phone company’s records. While these cell records can be conclusive, they are defensible.

There are circumstances behind every piece of evidence. The gray area in Nevada remains as to whether liability can extend beyond the drivers. Can the person who called or texted the driver hold some degree of responsibility?

In car accident cases, a driver can be sued under either of two liability theories:

  1. the driver breached the duty of care owed to others on the road; or
  2. the per se theory.

The per se liability theory is when a driver disregards the law and violates it, then the driver is responsible for the accident. The evidence for this theory is the ticket issued at the scene. The ticket, issued on the interpretation of the circumstances by the law enforcement officer, is the per se evidence of fault.

The harder question comes when considering what distracted the driver from the road. What if the driver did not text or place a call? What if the driver received one?

Could the driver’s employer hold some degree of fault if the driver received a text on a business-related matter? Would the driver want family members or friends held liable for a text or a call? The parties placing the texts and calls to the driver would be within the cell phone records.

The issues involved in proving negligence in a distracted driving case based on texting or using a handheld phone are not as straightforward or as evident as they seem.