ENHANCED DAMAGES FOR DISTRACTED DRIVING: Statutory Double or Treble Damages

In recent blogs we covered damages and distracted driving. Now, those topics come together with the passage of Substitute House Bill No. 7126, which amends section 14-295 of the Connecticut General Statutes by adding distracted driving to the litany of traffic violations that will give rise to double or treble damages. This statute provides that in a civil action to recover damages for personal injury or death, a plaintiff may recover double or treble damages if the defendant deliberately, or with reckless disregard, operates a motor vehicle in violation of certain enumerated motor vehicle laws. The most obvious include driving under the influence (14-227a) and reckless driving (14-222), but the statute (14-295) previously covered eleven separate motor vehicle laws, which violations could give rise to enhanced double or treble damages. The addition of distracted driving (14-296aa) to the list provides another powerful remedy to those injured due to the reckless conduct of distracted drivers.

Section 14-296aa of the general statutes prohibits, with certain specified exceptions, the use of hand-held mobile telephones and mobile electronic devices by vehicle operators. It provides that no person shall operate a motor vehicle on a highway while using a hand-held mobile telephone to engage in a call, or while using a mobile electronic device. It further restricts typing, sending or reading a text message, and creates a presumption that an operator who holds a hand-held mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of his or her ear, is engaged in a call and therefore in violation of this section. By incorporating a violation of this section to the double or treble damages statute, the legislature recognized the significant harm caused by distracted drivers. The enhanced statutory damages will serve the dual purpose of deterring drivers from the prohibited conduct and punishing those who engage in such conduct causing harm to others.

As with the other underlying sections that give rise to double or treble damages under 14-295, in order to successfully recover the enhanced statutory damages, the injured party must show that the distracted driver operated the vehicle deliberately, or with reckless disregard of 14-296aa, and that the violation of that section was a substantial factor in causing the injury. The amendment is effective on July 1, 2019, and applies to any civil actions that are pending on or filed after that date.

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident, you should consult with an attorney familiar with all applicable motor vehicle and damages laws to properly protect your legal rights.

Read More: GPS Blog on Distracted Driving

 

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