Years ago I sat through a criminal trial where a judge threw the book at two young men who casually murdered a house cat.
That’s not what the charges read for the case. Officially, they were tried for an armed robbery case. There were no animal cruelty charges in the trial. The two men allegedly held up a corner store, then piled into an old car to get away. Right after they left the store the passenger aimed his gun out the window and shot someone’s kitty cat that was lounging on a porch.
Like I said, officially they were tried for the hold-up, but it was clear that what really motivated the judge to issue the maximum sentence was knowing that they killed that cat.
There’s a lesson for us in the personal injury world. Most people absolutely despise people who text behind the wheel. If someone causes a car accident while texting, a judge or jury may respond differently than they would to a driver who reached down to pick up a CD of the floorboards.
This is an example of the human factor coming into law and impacting court results in a way not intended by the law unless there is a specific law that distinguishes texting while driving from other forms of distracted driving. It’s not supposed to work that way, but in practice it does.
It’s often irrelevant what distracted a driver. They could have been looking at birds or just not paying attention. The opposing counsel doesn’t have to prove what distracted the driver, but that they drove negligently. Drivers have an obligation to look at the road ahead of them, read street signs, obey traffic lights, and leave space between vehicles. That is the most important thing to prove.
But if we can prove they were texting, we will. That involves subpoenaing the phone company’s metadata on when texts were sent from the other driver’s phone. We know that texting while driving can infuriate a courtroom and help our case. Even if we don’t plan to take the case to trial, we know opposing counsel or the insurance company will make a more generous settlement to avoid risking a wrathful courtroom.