Distracted Driver Kills Teenager

Even though she was properly restrained, a 14-year-old girl is dead after a tortfeasor (negligent driver) ran off the road and smashed into a tree.

The wreck occurred on westbound Louisiana Route 422 near the intersection of Louisiana Route 19. According to police, 24-year-old Shannon Sessions “became distracted by a bug that flew into her vehicle.” She then drove her Jeep Wrangler off the road, and it plummeted down a steep embankment before crashing into a tree and overturning. Backseat passenger 14-year-old Emily Sessions, of Woodville, Miss., was declared dead at the scene; Shannon Sessions and a frontseat passenger were both seriously injured.

Authorities are unsure how the victims and the distracted driver were related.

Distracted Driving Liability

About 65 percent of distracted driving crashes are cell phone-related. The others involve a wide range of activities, from unusual occurrences like bugs flying through the window to everyday ones like adjusting the climate control. To make drivers more aware of these possibly dangerous activities, many states have broad distracted driving laws. For example, in January 2015, Cobb County police cited a Georgia man for eating a cheeseburger while driving; prosecutors later dismissed the case.

Louisiana’s distracted driving law isn’t nearly as broad as the one in the Peachtree State, because Louisiana’s law only bans texting for most drivers. Younger drivers cannot use cell phones at all. So, there are basically two types of distracted driving int he Bayou State:

  • Legal: In civil court, operators who text while drive are negligent as a matter of law if they cause crashes while using their cell phones in this matter.
  • Factual: Anything else, such as using an app, eating, or swatting insects while driving is also technically distracted driving, but there is a question of degree. Most jurors would not agree that sipping a beverage while driving is dangerous distracted driving, even though such activity does cause drivers to take at least one hand off the wheel.

The other two types of distracted driving are cognitive (taking one’s mind off driving) and visual (taking one’s eyes off the road).

Damages Available

The amount of compensation in distracted driving cases largely depends on the settlement value. Before attorneys send demand letter to insurance companies, and this is nearly always the first step in the out-of-court settlement process, lawyers must somewhat objectively determine the amount of fair compensation.

Part of this inquiry is objective, because it involves simple arithmetic regarding lost wages, medical bills, property loss, and other economic damages. But much of this inquiry is subjective, because it is impossible to put an objective dollar value on pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), emotional distress, and other noneconomic damages. Attorneys must also predict the damages that a jury might award, based on the strength of the evidence and the tendency of jurors in that particular parish.

The more experienced the attorney is, the better the settlement value calculation will be, and victims therefore have a better chance to obtain maximum compensation.

Whether or not they technically violate the law, distracted drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with Lee Hoffoss or another experienced personal injury attorney in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. We do not charge upfront legal fees in most negligence cases.