Texting while driving is the act of reading, viewing, writing, or sending text messages via cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.

Texting while driving is a moving traffic violation and may be a criminal misdemeanor in certain jurisdictions. Studies have shown that texting while driving increases the risk of a vehicle crash by anywhere from 2.8 to 23.2 times than normal. The laws covering texting are aimed more at deterrence (prevention) rather than recovery of losses.

What Are the Laws on Texting While Driving?

Similar to cell phone use laws, texting while driving laws vary from state to state. Currently, 44 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. Four states prohibit teenage drivers and new drivers from text messaging. Three states do not allow school bus drivers from text messaging.

States that do not have any type of restriction on texting while driving are:

  • Arizona
  • Montana

The following states have a more lenient texting law:

  • Mississippi: the ban is only against individuals with either a learner’s permit or an intermediate license.
  • Missouri: the ban is only against drivers 21 years or younger.
  • Oklahoma: the ban is against individuals with a learner’s permit, intermediate license, school bus divers, and public transit drivers.
  • Texas: the ban is against bus drivers when they are driving passengers 17 and younger, intermediate license holders for the first 12 months, and drivers in school crossing zones.

What Are the Penalties for Texting While Driving?

As mentioned, the laws governing texting while driving vary from state to state. However, punishment for texting while driving generally includes a combination of the following:

  • Monetary fines: these can range from as low as $20 up to $500 depending on the state
  • Criminal charges: in some states texting while driving can result in criminal misdemeanor charges (Class B or C)
  • Jail or prison time: if the offense has resulted in bodily injury to another driver, jail or prison time may be imposed

The severity of punishments increases with repeat offenses. For example, after a second offense, the judge may choose to issue a higher fine or a longer jail sentence.

In addition to legal consequences, other consequences for texting while driving include:

  • Points on one’s driving record
  • Suspension or revocation of driving privileges
  • Mandatory road safety classes
  • Vehicle impoundment, especially if great bodily injury resulted from an accident

Finally, in some jurisdictions commercial drivers and school bus drivers are held to stricter standards. Violations can result in fines of over $2,000 for truck and bus drivers.

What Compensation Can I Receive If I Have Been Injured By Someone Texting While Driving?

The exact amount of compensation will be different based on the facts of the case. However, you can receive compensatory damage awards for any injuries you suffered. You can also recover money for any expenses you had or any money you lost because of your injury.

In some cases, punitive damages may be added. Punitive damages are designed to punish the offender for his or her actions. For example, if the person who injured you was fined for texting while driving previously, the court may add punitive damages onto the amount of money awarded.

You should contact a personal injury attorney if you were involved in an accident with a driver who was texting while driving. A personal injury lawyer can help you recover any money you lost because of the driver’s negligence.

Do I Need a Lawyer If Facing Texting While Driving Charges?

Texting while driving is a serious offense and can even result in criminal misdemeanor charges. You should contact a traffic violation lawyer if you are involved in a charge of texting while driving. It is especially important to seek advice from a lawyer if the offense resulted in great injury or the death of another driver. Also, if the charge is a second or repeat offense, you should obtain legal representation as the punishments will be more severe than first-time charges.