Increasingly, we the general public have gotten into the habit of texting, emailing, or surfing the internet while walking. If we stop to think a moment, its easy to see that this practice is dangerous. It distracts us from our surroundings.
Now, several studies have confirmed this intuitive conclusion. A study of 26 people conducted by the University of Queensland found that texting (or reading) while walking negatively effects one’s balance, posture, and gait. These people have a higher likelihood of falling. A similar study conducted by Ohio State University found that over 1500 people were injured as a result of using a cell phone while walking in 2010. The study’s co-author predicted that this number would double by 2015.
This dangerous practice is finding its way into civil litigation. Increasingly, savvy defense attorneys are asking plaintiffs at deposition and during trial, if they were using their cell phones in the moments prior to an accident. Was the plaintiff texting while crossing the street, and that’s why they didn’t see the car turning? Was the plaintiff talking on the phone or checking an email, and that’s why they didn’t see the cracked sidewalk right in front of them? Demands for cell phone records are now routine.
A plaintiff who is found to be using the phone in the moments before an accident will hurt their own case. This plaintiff can be found contributorily negligent; or in other words, they are also partially responsible for the accident. The argument is, if the plaintiff wasn’t distracted, and was paying attention to what was going on around them, maybe the accident could have been avoided. While this argument is never air tight, juries agree with it to a certain extent and partially blame the plaintiff. Our advice to you; leave the phone in your pocket while walking, and stand off to the side if you need to take a call or shoot out an email.