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A friend phoned me today, complaining that in his 30 years in Fairbanks, Alaska – he has never seen such poor driving as he’s encountered this winter. “Ward, are folks just getting stupid, or what?” “Just yesterday, another person was killed on the Steese. How many will it take before folks stop talking on their cell phones?” I also had a phone call from a woman who was literally run over by a driver who didn’t take five minutes to clear frost from his windshield. The cell phone comment got me thinking…

The next time you sit on a civil automobile wreck jury – if you ever get the chance – pay close attention to what the drivers were doing when the wreck occurred. New research is showing the a driving while speaking into a cell phone seriously detracts from a driver’s ability to navigate safely. In fact, it’s worse than drinking and driving – up to a Blood Alcohol content of .10. That’s above Alaska’s “legal” limit of .080.
You will get the chance to judge a person’s driving in a civil case. That’s what a jury does. In short, the jury is asked to determine whether a driver was “Negligent.” Negligence is simply doing something that you ought not to do, like drive while talking on a cell phone. If you find a driver “Negligent” – and that negligence caused injury to another person (my client) remember that your job is to unwind the harms suffered by the injured person.
Your job is to determine how much money will undo the problems caused by the negligence. You will be called upon to determine: (1) medical bills; (2) lost wages; and (3) pain/suffering. The first two are pretty easy. The last one requires thought. Ask yourself: “How much money would it take for me to get back on my horse if I was hurt like this?” Put yourself into the injured person’s shoes.

Also, send a message. Tell the negligent driver that you don’t want him/her running you over next week. Figure out how much money it will take to pull his/her cell phone from his/her ear. Send a clear message that safe driving is more important than “texting” a friend.

Most importantly, how a bit of empathy. Contrary to what some talk-show hosts scream, nobody really wants to get run over. Nobody wants to sue another person. Nobody wants to stand before 12 strangers (a jury) and ask to be treated fairly – because the negligent driver’s insurance carrier is playing games.

Do you job as a juror. Slow down as a driver. Hang up the cell before you kill somebody.

Be smart.

– Ward.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Car and Motorcycle Accidents.

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