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Is Eating While Driving Negligence?

Anyone who spends a lot of time driving, or who has to squeeze meals into a commute as part of a busy schedule, often ends up eating while driving. Like so many bad driving habits, the risks associated with eating can be easy to dismiss for someone who hasn’t experienced the consequences of those risks. At the same time, eating and driving isn’t necessarily unlawful, but it can lead to negligent behavior in some cases.

Eating can be a big distraction

Eating while driving is on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) list of dangerous driver distractions. The NHTSA offers three types of distraction that drivers can experience:
  • Visual distractions draw the driver’s eyes away from the road.
  • Manual distractions require the driver to do something with his or her hands other than controlling the vehicle.
  • Cognitive distractions involve mental processes that aren’t related to driving.
Eating while driving potentially involves the first two items, and could involve the third as well. Glancing down at a bag of chips could be enough to make a driver not see the stopped car out ahead. Eating a burger requires using hands that might otherwise be on the steering wheel. And if the burger falls apart and drops a big mess into the driver’s lap, the driver may suddenly be worried about how to clean up and not about what’s happening outside the car.

Distracted driving is not, by itself, unlawful, but . . .

Prohibiting distracted driving isn’t practical, but that doesn’t mean that a distracted driver can’t be held responsible if his or her distraction leads to an accident. The NHTSA’s statistics show that distracted driving is a common cause of accidents. Nevada’s prohibition of cell phone use by drivers is an example of a specific case where lawmakers have found a way to address a source of distraction. But eating while driving is a different case. Eating while driving is common. Its potential for distraction falls on a spectrum, from relatively minimal distraction to the extreme case of being burned by spilled coffee. Being distracted by food can lead a driver to make other mistakes that do qualify as negligence. Every driver owes other drivers and pedestrians a basic obligation to pay reasonable attention to the roadway. Failing to do so may be negligence, regardless of its underlying cause. Failing to comply with traffic laws, by swerving into an adjacent lane or running a stop sign, is negligence per se, meaning the fact that the defendant broke those specific rules creates a presumption that the driver was behaving negligently. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in accident cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us today at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Safely Carrying Dogs in Cars

People love taking their dogs with them wherever they go, and dogs love it, too. But dogs moving around inside a car can be dangerously distracting for drivers and can lead to serious accidents. Dogs that aren’t adequately secure in a car can also suffer injuries in sudden stops or collisions. Dog owners should take a moment to think seriously about how they protect themselves and their dogs from injury. Here are a few tips:
  • Dogs should be restrained just like any other passenger. At a minimum, dogs should only ride in the back seat, but keeping them restrained is an even better policy. Like everything else in the car, a dog can be forcefully thrown toward the front of the vehicle in a collision, leading to serious injuries. Ideally a dog riding in a vehicle should be kept in a kennel. Far from being cruel, a familiar kennel can help keep a dog calm and contained. Retailers also sell harnesses one can use to essentially provide a dog with a seatbelt.
  • Never carry a dog in a truck bed. One of the most common sources of injury for dogs riding in vehicles is from falling out of truck beds. It is rarely sufficient to tie a dog to the truck with a leash. Dogs can still fall out and be strangled by the leash. If available, put the dog in the truck’s back seat.
  • Avoid letting the dog hang its head out of an open window. As fun as it is to watch a dog enjoy the breeze, a dog hanging its head out of an open window in a moving car is at substantially greater risk of suffering an injury from flying debris, obstructions like branches, and other vehicles. Dogs also sometimes fall or jump out of open windows.
  • Be mindful of the heat. Like small children, dogs can suffer serious heat-related injuries or even death if left inside a hot car. Nevada law prohibits leaving any pet in a parked or standing vehicle in extreme hot or cold weather unless there is a person at least 12 years of age in the car with the pet. Nevada law authorizes rescuers to use “any reasonable means necessary” to save a pet left in a hot car without incurring civil liability. This means that leaving a dog in a hot car could expose the owner to prosecution but also lead to a broken window or other damage to the car. The best solution, of course, is to avoid do this at all.
Driving with an unrestrained dog in the car probably increases the risk that the driver will be dangerously distracted. If an accident does occur and the dog owner is at fault, the fact that there was a dog loose in the car may become an important fact in determining liability. The driver may find that his or her insurance carrier is unsympathetic and unhelpful in such cases, potentially leaving the driver holding the bill. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area seek compensation for personal injuries. If you have questions about how driving with a dog may affect your legal liability, call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Texting a Driver: Is a Sender Liable for an Accident?

Texting a Driver: Is a Sender Liable for an Accident?
It is against the law to text while driving in Nevada. Someone who gets into an accident while texting can expect to have their cell phone use become a focus of the insurance companies and lawyers who get involved in the case, especially if the accident caused serious personal injuries. But are there situations where the sender of a text could bear some liability for an accident?

The driver bears primary responsibility

Perhaps the first thing to understand about this question is that the driver of the vehicle that causes an accident bears responsibility for the accident. Because Nevada drivers are prohibited from using their cell phones except in response to an emergency, a driver who gets distracted by a text message is already breaking the law. Strictly speaking, a driver who feels the need to look at a text message should pull to the side of the road. A New Jersey court examined this question in 2013. In Kubert v. Best, 432 N.J. Super. 495 (2013), a young driver caused an accident while he was reading a text. Like Nevada, New Jersey had adopted a law prohibiting hands-on cell phone use while driving. N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3. The injured plaintiffs sued both the driver and the sender of the text, arguing that the sender was “electronically present” at the time of the accident and should be held responsible for the consequences of her text message. The court in Kubert found that the sender was not liable.

A potential exception for knowingly sending distracting texts

Although it ruled in favor of the sender in the Kubert case, the New Jersey court held that the sender of a text can still be held liable for injuries that are proximately caused by sending a text if the sender knew, or had special reason to know, that the recipient would view the text while driving. Kubert, 432 N.J. Super. at 507. A Pennsylvania court cited Kubert in allowing a case to go forward against the sender of a text under similar circumstances. Although New Jersey cases aren’t binding in Nevada, the novel nature of this question may give a court reason to consider taking the Kubert court’s lead in future cases. Given the right set of facts, the sender of a text message might effectively be committing an independent act of negligence that contributes to an accident. Sending a distracting text could be similar to a passenger acting in a particularly distracting way—hitting the driver or covering the driver’s eyes, for example. When the sender knows that the recipient is driving, and the text could be a distraction, there’s a possibility that liability could stick. Another side to these cases is whether the driver who received the text, or the recipient’s insurance carrier, could sue the sender. It remains to be seen how questions like these will play out going forward. Although in most circumstances courts are likely to reject the idea that merely sending a text message creates liability for an accident, especially when the driver is acting wrongfully by reading it, chances are good that the right facts will come together to test these issues before a Nevada court.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have broad experience with personal injury cases. If you have been injured in an accident and have questions about your legal options, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.