The Role of Cell Phone Use in Car Accident Liability

The Role of Cell Phone Use in Car Accident Liability

As a motorist, you have a responsibility to drive with care and attention. When you choose to use your cell phone behind the wheel, you increase your risk of causing a car accident. Understanding when you may be liable for damages if you cause an accident while distracted is an important part of driving safely and avoiding legal trouble. In this article, we will examine the role of cell phone use in determining liability after a car accident. Key questions we will explore include when cell phone use becomes negligent behavior versus a justified reason for an accident, and how laws and court precedents handle accidents caused by drivers distracted by their phones. We will also look at steps you can take to manage cell phone use and minimize accident risk as a motorist. This knowledge will empower you to make responsible choices and avoid legal issues.

Cell Phone Use While Driving: The Statistics

According to research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2019 alone 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in the U.S. An alarming 11% of fatal crashes were reported to have involved cell phone use as a distraction.

Driver Distraction

Using a cell phone while driving diverts the driver's attention from the road, negatively impacting driving performance. Dialing a cell phone, for example, requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention, all of which are critical for safe driving. Studies show cell phone use while driving slows reaction times and impacts lane keeping and speed control.

Texting is Most Dangerous

Of all cell phone activities, texting while driving is considered the most dangerous due to the combination of visual, manual, and cognitive distraction required. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, enough time to travel the length of a football field when driving at highway speeds. With the rise in smartphone adoption, the dangers of texting while driving have become an increasing threat on our roadways.

While hands-free phone options can help reduce manual distraction, research shows cognitive distraction still negatively impacts driving performance and safety. The only way to fully avoid the risks of cell phone distraction is to refrain from using your phone altogether while operating a vehicle. Putting your phone away in the glove compartment or trunk can help avoid temptation and ensure your full attention remains on the road.

Texas Laws on Distracted Driving and Cell Phone Use

In Texas, it is illegal to use a handheld cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.

Hands-Free Law

Under the state's hands-free law, drivers are prohibited from using handheld cell phones to make calls, text, read or send electronic messages while driving. Hands-free devices, like Bluetooth headsets, speakerphones or voice-activated systems, are permitted as long as the driver exercises caution. The law aims to curb distracted driving and improve road safety by limiting manual manipulation of cell phones behind the wheel.

Fines and Penalties

Violating the hands-free law can result in fines up to $500 for a first offense. Repeat offenders face progressively higher fines and may also receive a citation. Causing a crash due to cell phone use can lead to much steeper penalties, including license suspension, thousands of dollars in fines and even jail time, especially if serious injury or death results.


The law does provide limited exceptions for emergency responders, two-way radio use and hands-free navigation systems. Drivers are also permitted to use cell phones to report illegal activity, call for emergency help or connect with entities like emergency call centeres. However, cell phone conversations and other electronic communications for social or entertainment purposes remain prohibited while operating a vehicle.


Studies show hands-free laws can help curb distracted driving behaviors and reduce accident rates over time. However, many experts argue that hands-free phone use also poses risks, as mental distraction remains even when hands are kept on the wheel and eyes on the road. As technology becomes more integrated into vehicles, drivers must exercise caution and good judgment to avoid diversion of attention from the critical task of navigating safely. Overall, completely avoiding cell phone use while driving is the safest approach.

How Cell Phone Use Affects Car Accident Liability

Using a cell phone while driving can have serious legal consequences in the event of an accident. Studies show that using a mobile device behind the wheel significantly impairs your ability to drive safely by diverting your attention away from the road. As a driver, you have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring other people or damaging their property. If you fail to uphold this duty because you were distracted by your phone, you may face liability for any resulting accident.

In many places, it is illegal to use a handheld phone while driving. If you cause an accident while violating this law, it will be much easier for the other party to prove you were negligent. They can point to your unlawful act as evidence that you breached your duty of care. Even if you were using hands-free technology like Bluetooth to make a call, studies show your mental workload and distraction level are comparable to driving while drunk or dangerously drowsy.

Any phone use behind the wheel slows your reaction times, impairs decision making, and reduces situational awareness, all of which increase the risk of an accident.

The potential consequences of distracted driving accidents are severe. You may face legal liability for injuries, vehicle damage, and other losses. Your insurance rates could increase significantly. In serious cases, criminal charges are also possible. The financial and legal repercussions often far outweigh any benefit of making or taking that call or text.

No call, text, or social media update is worth jeopardizing lives or risking legal liability. ###The safest option is to avoid using your phone altogether when driving. Wait until you have safely reached your destination before making or taking any calls or texts. If it's truly urgent, pull over and stop your vehicle in a lawful parking spot first. Following these best practices will help ensure you avoid legal trouble and arrive at your destination safely.

Proving the Other Driver Was Distracted in Your Car Accident Case

To prevail in a car accident liability claim, you must prove that the other driver was negligent and at fault for the collision. One of the ways to establish liability is by showing that the other motorist was distracted while driving. In many states, it is illegal to use a cell phone or other electronic devices while operating a vehicle. If the other driver was using their phone at the time of the accident, it significantly increases the likelihood that they will be found predominantly at fault.

Cell Phone Records

Obtaining the other driver’s cell phone records can provide concrete evidence that they were distracted during the accident. Call logs, text messages, and data usage at the exact time of the crash can all demonstrate they were using their phone instead of paying attention to the road. Your attorney can request these records through the discovery process in a lawsuit or submit a subpoena to the wireless carrier.

Eyewitness Statements

Eyewitness statements from passengers, other motorists, or bystanders indicating that the other driver was on their phone or otherwise distracted are also persuasive forms of evidence. Ask any witnesses at the scene for their contact information so your lawyer can take their official statements. Multiple witness accounts all confirming the same observation will carry significant weight.

Police Report

The investigating police officer’s report may note that the other driver admitted to using their cell phone or was observed doing so at the time of the accident. The report may also indicate that distracted driving was a contributing factor based on the officer’s analysis of the evidence at the crash site. Be sure to obtain a copy of the police report as soon as possible, as it can contain critical information to support your claim.

By gathering evidence from these sources to show that the other driver was distracted by their cell phone use, you can build a strong case to prove their negligence and liability in your car accident case. Their inattentiveness and irresponsible behavior directly led to your injuries and losses, entitling you to appropriate compensation.

Finding the Right Texas Car Accident Lawyer for Your Case

Experience and Focus

When seeking counsel for a car accident case in Texas, look for attorneys with experience in this area of the law. An ideal car accident lawyer will have a proven track record of success in handling these types of personal injury claims. They should focus a majority of their practice on car accident and personal injury litigation. Lawyers who dabble in many areas of the law may not have the in-depth knowledge needed for a strong case.

Resources and Trial Experience

The attorney you choose should have the resources and financial ability to take a case to trial if needed. While most car accident cases settle out of court, the threat of a trial is leverage for negotiation. Look for a lawyer with a history of obtaining large settlements and judgments at trial. They will have relationships with medical experts, accident reconstructionists and other resources to build a solid case.

Communication and Availability

Look for a car accident lawyer who is responsive and available to you. They should clearly communicate the process for handling your claim and keep you apprised of important developments. Be wary of lawyers who promise a quick settlement without investigating the details of your case. Reputable lawyers will gather facts to determine fault and the full extent of your damages before entering into settlement negotiations.

Contingency Fee Basis

Most car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means there are no upfront legal fees. They only get paid if they recover compensation for you. Their fee will be a percentage of your final settlement amount, usually 33% to 40%. This arrangement only charges you if they win your case. Be sure to understand the details of any fee agreement before hiring a lawyer.

With some research, you can find a reputable Texas car accident lawyer to handle your claim. Look for experience, resources, responsiveness and fair fee terms. The right representation can make all the difference in recovering full and fair compensation.


As we have explored, using your cell phone while driving significantly increases your risk of being involved in an accident, even if you are using a hands-free device. While laws are in place to deter cell phone use behind the wheel, these laws can be difficult to enforce and do not completely prevent unsafe behavior. As a driver, it is your personal responsibility to make the choice to drive distraction-free for the safety of yourself and others on the road. Consider turning your phone to silent or airplane mode before starting your car, and waiting until you have safely arrived at your destination before checking messages. The few seconds of distracted driving are never worth the risk of endangering lives. Despite, lawyers at Fletcher Law are always available for appropriate consultation. We all share the same roads and have a duty to use them responsibly.