man on phone while driving
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By Royce Nunley

You are driving in your car when your cell phone rings. You can see from the screen that it is an important call from work or a family member. For some reason, the call isn’t going through your car’s hands-free system. Maybe you accidentally turned off Bluetooth or forgot to connect to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Since it is an important call, you answer it using your hands. As of June 30, 2023, you just committed distracted driving. Michigan has made a decision to crack down on cell phone accidents. The new law defines distracted driving as using any part of your hands, arms, or even shoulders to access a phone or other device. Under the law, if you are pulled over, you can be fined up to $100 or given 16 hours of community service. These penalties go up with each subsequent ticket. The belief is that, if drivers are ticketed and fined for illegal cellphone use while driving, this will cut down on the number of accidents caused by cellphone use.

What happens if, just as you use your hands to answer the call, you crash into another vehicle on the road? Are you automatically at fault? If you get hurt, can you still collect for your injuries in a cellphone distracted driver accident? 

Michigan’s No-Fault Law

If you are physically injured in the crash, your reasonable medical bills will be covered by your No-Fault policy, even if you were deemed to have caused the accident. This applies to your situation, even if you were using your cell phone with your hands in violation of the distracted driving law. In addition, your No-Fault policy will cover up to 85% of your lost income for up to three years. There is also coverage for any damage to other people’s property, excluding the other car involved in the accident. This does not change just because your use of a cell phone may have been the cause of the collision.

Comparative Negligence

Michigan is a comparative negligence state. This means that it looks at all the parties involved in a car accident and apportions responsibility based on their actions and failures. So, if someone involved in an auto accident was deemed to have been completely without fault, he or she will recover all of their pain and suffering and economic damages in a traffic accident lawsuit. However, if the jury finds that a person’s actions or failures to act contributed 25% to the cause of the accident, then he or she will only recover 75% of their damages.  This does not apply to the amounts paid out under No Fault for things like medical expenses and lost wages that are covered regardless of the relative fault of the parties. 

Using a Cellphone While Driving

Under the new law, if you were found to have been using a cell phone in violation of the statute at the time of the accident, you will be deemed to have committed distracted driving. This can be for making calls, sending or reading texts, using the device’s navigation system, or accessing any online content. This will create a presumption that you were at least partially responsible for the accident. This does not mean that you are automatically at fault.

Comparative negligence requires the examination of the actions and failures to act of each party in an auto accident. So, if you were using your hands to make a call, but did not do anything else, and the other driver rear-ended your car because they were driving at an excessive speed, the other driver is likely to be held to be more responsible than you.

Still, you should avoid using your cell phone or other devices in your vehicle without a hands-free system. Under the new statute, if a crash occurs as the result of such improper usage, you will not only be at least partially at fault. You will also face having all fines under the statute doubled. The best way to avoid this is to make sure your device is properly connected to your vehicle’s hands-free system, whether by Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, or Android Auto. 

If You Are Involved in an Accident, Please Call us

If you or a loved one is involved in a car accident, call the Nunley Law Group. Our firm is experienced in all aspects of Michigan’s personal injury law, including ones that result from improper use of cell phones under the new distracted driver law.

About the Author
Royce Nunley practices in the areas of Family Law, Criminal Law, Social Security, and Personal Injury law. Royce graduated Cum Laude from Wayne State University with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. He continued his education at Wayne Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate Cum Laude. Named to Superlawyer’s “rising stars” in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 for his work in Family Law.