The Shocking Truth About Cell Phones That Could Save Your Life

The number of people injured in car accidents involving a distracted driver is on the rise, and distracted driving is a factor in nearly one in five accidents resulting in injuries. This increase coincides with an increase in the use of cell phones and smart phones in general and particularly while driving.

Approximately 95% of Americans own cell phones and 77% own a smart phone, and the use of these devices appears to be increasing in frequency and duration over time. Approximately two thirds of drivers reported talking on a cell phone while driving, and nearly a third reported reading or sending text messages or emails while driving. One study reported that over 90% of college students initiate, reply or read a text message while driving.

Distracted driving can take many forms including texting, using a cell phone, talking to passengers, looking at maps, grooming, eating, daydreaming, smoking, adjusting the stereo, or using a navigation system. These distractions are often classified into four broad categories: (1) visual distractions, such as taking your eyes off the road; (2) physical distractions, which include eating or smoking; (3) audible distractions, like listening to someone speaking; and (4) mental distractions, including daydreaming or focusing on something other than driving.

A distraction can include one or more of these categories. For example, reading a text message may involve receiving an audible notification, picking up the phone, looking at the message, and thinking about the content.

Mobile phone use while driving is common and can easily distract a driver from the road. Talking on a cell phone is a problem, but smart phones offer many functions to divert a driver’s attention, such as text messages, emails, social media, music, and map features.

Texting is particularly dangerous because it takes the driver’s attention away from driving more frequently and for longer periods of time than other distractions. One study found that text messaging increased distraction-related accidents six fold. The average time a driver takes their eyes off the road while texting is five seconds. At 55 mph, five seconds is enough time to travel the length of a football field.

California has attempted to address the problem by prohibiting drivers from holding or using a cell phone unless it is set up for hands-free operation. Nevertheless, drivers continue to reach for their phone while driving. So put down the cell phones while driving, and contact an attorney if you have been injured by a distracted driver.

What the media hasn’t told you about concussions

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) that results in a temporary loss of brain function. Every car accident victim is at risk for concussions or TBI, particularly children and older adults. A TBI is caused by a blow or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. TBI may range from mild to severe depending on the symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that millions of traumatic brain injuries occur each year and approximately 15% of all traumatic brain injuries in the US are caused by motor vehicle collisions. Motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of hospitalizations for persons ages 15-44 years of age.

Severe traumatic brain injuries can result in death, unconsciousness, or amnesia, and can lead to a wide range of long and short term issues. However, concussions are the most common form of TBI and are likely the most underreported because the symptoms are not always immediately apparent and many people do not seek appropriate medical attention. A concussion is a mild type of TBI that results in a temporary loss of brain function.

Recovery from concussions varies among individuals, but symptoms may last for weeks or longer. Symptoms of a concussion generally fall into four categories: (1) thinking/remembering (difficulty thinking clearly, feeling slowed down, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering new information); (2) physical (headaches, fuzzy or blurry vision, nausea or vomiting early on, dizziness, sensitivity to noise and light, balance problems, feeling tired); (3) emotional/mood (irritability, sadness, more emotional, nervousness or anxiety); and (4) sleep (difficulty sleeping and sleeping more or less than usual).

People with a concussion should be seen by a healthcare professional, who can evaluate a concussion and determine if a referral to a specialist is appropriate. Getting help soon after the injury may help to improve recovery. Healthcare professionals may perform a brain scan or other tests on learning, concentration, or problem-solving abilities to identify the effects of a concussion.

Most people recover from concussions, but it may take a while depending on a number of factors. Some people may have difficulty performing daily activities, going to work, relaxing, and getting along with others. The recovery period may require plenty of sleep and rest, avoiding physical activities such as exercise and housework, avoiding mental activities that require a lot of concentration like doing taxes and balancing the checkbook, and may require time off work.

Medical Records in Auto Accident Cases

In car accident cases, an injured party’s medical records are important pieces of evidence. A health care provider’s charts, notes, reports, and bills provide important documentation for assessing and presenting a compelling case for compensation following a car accident. These records provide valuable insight into the extent of the injuries sustained, the pain and suffering inflicted, time spent in treatment, limitations in daily life, and amounts of money that were spent or are owed as a result of the treatment.

Injured parties and their attorneys need to diligently gather these records in order to present a compelling case. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides that individuals have a right to access their own medical records. A car accident attorney will locate the pertinent health care facilities, prepare release forms for the patient, and arrange to obtain copies of these records.

Defense attorneys and insurance companies also have a limited ability to obtain these records in order to evaluate the injured party’s claims. However, an injured party’s privacy rights must be balanced against a defendant’s right to obtain medical records.

Insurance companies do not have a right to obtain an injured party’s medical records before litigation unless the disclosure is authorized by the injured party. Many insurance companies routinely send out very broad authorization forms as soon as a claim is presented but before a lawsuit is filed in an attempt to engage in a fishing expedition for any information that might appear to undercut an injured party’s claim.

When a lawsuit is filed, HIPAA and California law provide defendants with procedures for obtaining medical records pursuant to a Court order or a subpoena issued to the health care provider. These procedures provide the injured party with notice of the health information that the defendants are seeking and an opportunity to object to the information that is being sought. Defendants routinely send out overbroad requests to health care providers and fail to consider the appropriate procedures for preventing the unauthorized disclosure of protected health information to third parties.

If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important to consult with a qualified attorney to protect your rights.