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Know the legal options when a distracted driver kills a loved one

We all see it every day. More and more people are using their phones while also driving a car. The exact rate of texting while driving is unknown, but chances are strong that government statistics woefully underestimate the prevalence of this behavior. People manage to drive distracted without crashing, which only reinforces their belief that they can safely drive while staring at their phone instead of the road.

Unfortunately, it is often other people who end up paying the price for that negligence and arrogance. A distracted driver may miss critical cues on the road, which can result in a fatal crash. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists as well as people in other vehicles could end up severely hurt or killed as the result of someone texting at the wheel. If your family has lost a loved one to a driver who texted at the wheel, you may have options for seeking justice.

Texting behind the wheel is a crime in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law on texting while driving is very clear. It is absolutely a crime to send, read or write text-based communications while operating a moving vehicle. The law applies to more than just standard SMS text messages. It applies to instant messaging apps, email or any other form of written communication.

Distracted drivers typically face a fine of $50, along with court costs and fees. However, there are no points as a penalty and non-commercial drivers won't even have the incident recorded on their driver record. That could mean that someone who causes a fatal crash through texting could face nothing more than a slap on the wrist if the prosecutor can't acquire evidence of a crime.

Surviving family members can bring a wrongful death lawsuit

If the state is unable to bring criminal charges against the other driver (or even if they do), your family has the right to seek compensation for the wrongful death of your loved one. Wrongful death usually means an otherwise preventable death that resulted from the wrongful act, omission of action or neglect of another party. Willfully violating state law to text behind the wheel could certainly count as a wrongful act and/or negligence.

Bringing a lawsuit is one way to hold the responsible party accountable for the suffering of your family. A wrongful death lawsuit can result in compensation for medical costs, lost wages and funeral expenses. It can offset the financial losses your family incurred as a result of the crash. A wrongful death lawsuit can also penalize the other driver by making that person pay compensation to your family. While no amount of compensation can undue the damage caused by a distracted driver, a successful lawsuit can provide you with a sense of closure and justice.

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Conner Riley Friedman & Weichler
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Erie, PA 16501

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