Is Snapchat Causing Car Accident Deaths?

Snapchat, a popular smartphone app, has been implicated in a fiery Philadelphia car crash that claimed three young lives in December 2015. Horrifically, the victims likely burned alive when their car crashed into a parked tractor-trailer filled with dangerous chemicals. Snapchat is a suspected cause of the car crash because one of the passengers posted several Snapchats on the day of the accident, one of them clocking the car’s velocity at 73 mph. Unfortunately, with over 6 billion Snapchat videos being sent every day as of late 2015, this tragic scenario is likely to be repeated.

What Makes Snapchat Dangerous

Snapchat allows users to send videos, photos, text and other content to other users almost instantaneously. The app is unique in that the received content “self-destructs” 1 to 10 seconds after the message is opened (thereby instantly erasing any evidence of “sexting”). The self-destruct function puts time pressure on a driver who might be checking out a sexually titillating video – once the message is opened, there is little time to look away to check the road, since the message might self-destruct in the meantime. Obviously, Snapchat can also distract drivers who are sending their own content.

Example: Missouri Distracted Driving Laws

For example, distracted driving caused nearly 100 deaths in Missouri in 2015, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol, in addition to hundreds of non-fatal accidents. As of early 2016, Missouri lags behind other states in prohibiting distracted driving – the only restrictions are that:

  • Drivers under 22 may not text and drive, and

  • Commercial drivers may neither text and drive nor use hand-held cell phones while driving.

This dearth of statutory prohibitions is disadvantageous to injured victims, because a conviction under a distracted driving law can be used to help win a negligence lawsuit against the driver. Nevertheless, it is still possible to win a personal injury lawsuit against a driver who violated no distracted statute, as long as the plaintiff can prove that the defendant’s conduct was culpable under the particular circumstances leading up to the accident. Six-figure verdicts and settlements are not uncommon in cases of serious injury.

Proposed Changes in Missouri Law

The year 2016 might see the Missouri legislature finally catch up with other states in enacting comprehensive legislation against distracted driving. Several competing bills are under consideration for 2016 that would extend the current ban on texting while driving to all drivers (instead of only young drivers), with the possible exception of hands-free texting.

When to Call a Personal Injury Lawyer

While it is very important to get to a safe place shortly after a car accident, it is also important to document all the details. Rather than trying to keep specific details in your memory, it is wise to take pictures with a smartphone and write down specifics such as license plate numbers, insurance information and contacts of all the parties involved.

Taking the time to consult with a personal injury lawyer is always a good idea shortly after a car accident. As our car accident attorney friends at SoCal Injury Lawyers explain, “There is no better time to contact a lawyer than when you have the accident firmly in your mind. If you wait a few weeks or a few months, you may have forgotten some of the details.”

With this being true, we encourage you to seek medical assistance before making any decisions. After you are in good health feel free to contact us at any point. We have experienced car accident lawyers that can help you better understand your legal rights while also explaining how compensation will include medical costs, loss of work and pain and suffering.

Posted February 02, 2016
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