Cell Phones and Car Crashes-ticket to additional Insurance Coverage?
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Jul 25, 2010 in Car Accidents
I would estimate that 30% of the car crash injury cases we see involve a defendant driver who was talking on the cell phone or sending a text message while driving. Of these crashes, many of the phone calls are work related calls/text messages which can be the ticket to additional insurance coverage and additional defendants.
The defendant does not always admit to talking on the cell phone at the time of the car accident, and it is often hard to prove. However, in serious injury cases and in wrongful death cases, it can be vitally important. Say there is a car crash-a rear end accident-on Interstate 495 in Montgomery County, Maryland. Hypothetically the defendant driver is driving a 2001 Oldsmobile with minimum limits of insurance coverage ($20,000/$40,000.00 in MD). The Defendant driver makes an unsafe lane change while talking to a client on his cell phone, causing a terrible crash where John Smith is injured. Smith breaks his neck and is, unfortunately paralyzed. The innocent victim driver Mr. Smith is going to be limited in his recovery to the amount of his uninsured motorist benefits. Unfortunately, the amount of coverage available will not come close to covering his lifetime of medical expenses.
However, if a lawyer can prove that the defendant driver was on his cell phone for work at the time of the crash, then the defendant driver's employer can be sued under a vicarious liability theory. Typically companies, even smaller ones, have larger insurance policies than individual drivers. It is not unusual for a small business to have a million dollar commercial insurance policy to cover instances such as accidents when its employees are talking on the cell phone for work purposes.
In this day and age, lawyers need to be aware of the fact that additional insurance coverage can be triggered by establishing that a motor vehicle driver is talking on the phone or texting for work purposes at the time of the crash.