Some lawmakers are worried about the possible consequences of distracted driving from the four-legged friends that often ride unrestrained in passenger vehicles.

Currently, Hawaii is the only state that bans unrestrained animals, and so far this year, peace officers have only issues thirteen citations for violating the law. But a number of states are considering similar legislation, despite opposition from pet owners, who crave the emotional attachment of a pet in a lap. State Rep. Garland Pierce filed such a bill in February, then withdrew it a week later after a wave of protests. “I got ridiculed. I got beat up bad. I saw this as a highway safety issue. I had no idea that I was opening a can of worms,” he said. The vast majority of pet owners agree that unrestrained animals may be distracting, but only 16 percent of these people say they use a harness or other restraint.

Earlier in 2017, a Maine woman caused a serious car crash when her cat jumped on her lap and distracted her. She collided with a school bus, injuring herself, the bus driver, and several students. The cat also died.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving in Florida

Distracted drivers cause about 15 percent of the serious injury car wrecks in the Sunshine State. In traffic court, “distracted driving” is usually limited to texting while driving. But in negligence cases, the phrase is much broader. It encompasses any activity which causes drivers to take:

  • Their minds off driving (cognitive distraction),
  • Their eyes off the road (visual distraction), or
  • A hand off the wheel (manual distraction).

Hand-held cell phones trigger all three types of distraction, which is why they are so dangerous in Florida. Hands-free cell phones, despite the claims of some, are not much better, because these devices still cause cognitive and visual distraction. Some experts believe that hands-free devices may even be more dangerous, because they give Florida drivers a false sense of security.

Obtaining Compensation in a Florida Distracted Driving Case

If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was sending or reading a text message in the moments just before the car crash, the negligence per se doctrine may apply. The tortfeasor is liable for damages as a matter of law if the person:

  • Violated the distracted driving law or another safety law, and
  • That violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s damages.

If the victim sustained a serious injury, these damages include compensation for tangible losses, including medical bills, as well as intangible losses, including pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in certain egregious cases.

If the tortfeasor did not technically violate a safety law but was nevertheless distracted, perhaps by a pet or perhaps by talking on a hands-free cell phone, the victim is still entitled to damages if the tortfeasor’s conduct fell below the applicable standard of care, and that lack of care caused the victim’s damages.

Contact Aggressive Attorneys

Distracted drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).