Man using cellphone while driving.

Ask the Attorney: I Was on My Phone at the Time of an Accident – Does That Mean I’m Automatically At Fault? 

Using a phone while driving can be considered negligence, but it doesn’t automatically mean you are at fault for an accident. However, being on the phone can significantly impact your liability and potential penalties. How is fault determined in a car accident? Fault is typically determined by proving that a party involved in the accident was negligent. An experienced car accident attorney will be able to walk you through the steps of this type of case. 

Illinois Law on Using Phones While Driving

State law has placed strict restrictions on driving while using one’s phone. Texting while driving is illegal. This prohibition includes emailing and other messaging, as well as the use of handheld cell phones. All cell phone usage, whether handheld or hands-free, is not allowed for newly minted drivers. Cell phones are also banned while driving in school and construction zones. 

Even though talking on a hand-held device while driving is illegal, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily negligent to do so. Yes, it may have violated a traffic law, but it could have been a reasonable action under the circumstances.

How Can I Prove I’m Not at Fault Even if I Was on the Phone?

To show that you weren’t at fault when you were on the phone at the time of an accident, your attorney will have to demonstrate that the four elements of negligence have not been proven. The basic elements of a negligence case under state law are a) duty, b) breach of duty, c) damages, and d) causation. 

Duty refers to the obligation all drivers have to exercise the level of care that any reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances would use. The point is for drivers to do everything that is reasonably within their control to avoid placing other people at risk. 

Drivers are expected to anticipate what the foreseeable consequences of certain actions would be. For instance, it is foreseeable that a driver will run into someone or something if he or she doesn’t look behind them when backing out of a driveway or a parking spot. A reasonable person would look behind them and in their rearview mirror or back-up camera to make sure nothing or no one was in their path. 

The duty has been breached when someone fails to use reasonable care. How is this determination made? The law focuses on what action was taken versus what action should have been taken. So, if someone could have acted differently in the circumstances with a minimal burden to themselves, they would have breached their duty to use reasonable care while driving.

After duty and breach of duty have been established, in order to prove negligence, it has to be shown that someone was harmed by the behavior and that this harm was caused by the at-fault party’s negligence. The harm that is suffered is referred to as damages. So when a driver doesn’t look behind them when they back up and injure someone in the process, it has to be shown that the injury was caused by negligent driving. 

Call A Chicago Car Accident Attorney for a Consultation

If you were on the phone at the time of a car accident, the issue of who is at fault is not necessarily easy to determine. To achieve the best possible outcome for you, contact the experienced car accident attorneys at Stein & Shulman, LLC. We will thoroughly investigate any potential claim to see if all of the elements necessary for a negligence claim have been met.