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Author: sgray

Understanding Virginia Hands-Free Driving Laws

In recent years, there have been rising concerns about distracted driving – In particular, the use of cell phones (and other handheld devices) while driving.  In 2021, the Virginia General Assembly responded by passing significant updates to the Virginia cell phone law. Now, it’s illegal to hold a cell phone while driving, except for rare circumstances. 

The goal of these changes is to enhance road safety for all drivers by limiting the use of handheld communications devices while operating a motor vehicle. Understanding these laws can help you reduce crash risk that are most associated with distracted driving. 

If you have suffered injuries because of someone else’s negligence, we are here to help. Sharif Gray has won millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements. Call us at (804) 915-1611 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We will get justice for you. 

Virginia Cell Phone Law – Recent Changes

The most recent amendments to Virginia’s hands free law place tighter restrictions on the use of cell phones and other handheld devices while driving. According to the new hands free law, VA drivers are not allowed to hold a mobile device in their hand while operating a car, truck, van, or motorcycle on Virginia roads.

What is a Handheld Personal Communications Device?

Handheld personal communications devices encompass more than cell phones. This term refers to any other personal communication device that’s handheld and capable of sending or receiving communications.  That includes your smartphone, tablet, portable gaming console, and more. 

According to the latest Virginia driving laws, the use of these devices are prohibited in certain motor vehicles. This is to ensure the driver gives their full attention to the road and other motorists. 

Potential Exceptions To The Virginia Hands-Free Law

The latest cell phone laws in Virginia restrict the use of handheld devices while driving under most circumstances. However, there are a few exceptions to be aware of. They include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Emergency vehicle Operators – This can include firefighters and ambulance drivers who operate emergency vehicles using a handheld device that’s essential for their official duties. 
  • Law Enforcement Officer – Drivers of any vehicle operated pursuant to official duties are allowed to use handheld devices when their role requires immediate communication. 
  • Hands Free Device – You are allowed to use a bluetooth system while driving, which can help you make calls while reducing the risks of distracted driving. 
  • Use of Device While Parked – If you’re lawfully parked or safely stopped. 
  • Citizens Band Radio – Commercial drivers and amateur radio operators are allowed to use two way radios. 

Is Driving While Using a Cellphone Considered Reckless Driving?

Using a handheld communications device while operating a moving motor vehicle can be cited as reckless driving if it results in behavior that unnecessarily endangers the life, safety, or property of others. As such, Virginia law enforcement agencies closely monitor the behavior of distracted drivers, especially when it involves the use of handheld cellphones. 

Continue reading to learn more about the potential penalties for driving while using a cell phone. 

Penalties For Using a Cellphone While Driving

Violating the cell phone restriction laws while driving in Virginia could result in specific civil and criminal penalties. They include but aren’t limited to:

  • First offense – Traffic infraction punishable by a fine of $125. 
  • Second or subsequent offense – Punishable by a fine of $250. 
  • Highway work zone – Punishable by a mandatory fine of $250. 

It’s important to note that these fines and penalties can increase significantly in cases of persistent violations or handheld cell phone use that leads to injury or property damage. That can include criminal charges, points on your driver’s license, higher insurance rates, and more. 

Steps to Take After An Accident Caused By Cellphone Use

If you find yourself in an accident where cell phone use by another driver was a factor, take these important steps to protect your interests:

  1. Document the scene: Take photos and videos of the accident scene, including damages, work zone signs, and road conditions. 
  2. Call for help: If you’re severely injured make an emergency call for immediate medical help. Further, contact law enforcement and file a police report (be sure to mention your suspicion of cell phone use). 
  3. Collect information: Exchange information with all other drivers involved in the accident. Be sure to note whether they were using a cell phone or other personal communication device at the time of the collision. 
  4. Seek medical attention: In case your injuries aren’t apparent, it’s essential to get a medical check to ensure you’re covered in case they appear later. 
  5. Contact a car accident attorney: Consult with a law firm that’s experienced in distracted driving personal injury cases. An attorney can guide you step-by-step through the process of claiming compensation, dealing with insurance companies, and possibly pursuing further legal action if necessary.

By understanding the steps, legal responsibilities, and exceptions of the new hands free law in Virginia, you can better navigate the aftermath of a collision and seek fair compensation in cases resulting in serious injuries. 

Contact A Car Accident Attorney in VA Today

If you’ve been seriously injured due to the negligence or recklessness of another driver using a cell phone or other handheld device, you may be entitled to compensation. 

At RVA Personal Injury Lawyers, we’re uniquely equipped to help you navigate the ins and outs of your case, negotiate with the insurance company, and seek maximum compensation available to you under Virginia law. 

Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation with a Virginia car accident lawyer you can trust. 

“We Get Justice For Injured People, and We Love What We Do”

We are not settlement lawyers. Sharif Gray has proven that he can and will get results in court, and the insurance companies know that. If you have suffered injuries because of someone else’s negligence, we can help.

Sharif is committed to trying cases well. Because of that, he does not handle hundreds of cases at a time. He is selective in the cases he takes so he can get justice for the people he represents. In every case, he has three goals:

  1. Hold the responsible corporation or individual fully accountable.
  2. Make the community safer, so others are not also harmed.
  3. Compensation that recognizes the full and fair value of what was taken from your health and quality of life.

We love what we do, and we are proud of the positive impact we have had and will continue to have on the people we represent and the community we live in.

If we can be of help to you, please do not hesitate to call us at (804) 915-1611 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We will get justice for you.

“You Can’t Get Nowhere with a Thousand-Dollar Saddle on a Ten-Dollar Horse.”

“You can’t get nowhere with a thousand-dollar saddle on a ten-dollar horse.”

That line comes from a story that Gerry Spence is known to share:

Uncle Slim points to a dude in the corral trying to saddle a beaten-up horse with a fancy saddle, made of black leather lined with silver. Slim turns to Spence and says, “Ya can’t get nowhere with a thousand-dollar saddle on a ten-dollar horse.”

For Spence, the thousand-dollar saddle is the expensive, but not particularly helpful, legal education. And the horse is the lawyer.

We consistently neglect the horse.

Trials are human events. To succeed at trial, you must connect with the humans deciding your case. And, for that to happen, you must be authentic and allow yourself to be seen for who you are.

And that takes real work.

For me, the work has been consistent counseling for the last decade. Those sessions have forced me to really question what I value and how I want to live my life.

I have learned that there is no such thing as “failure” provided you learn from the experience, that discomfort = growth, and that there is nothing more powerful than the person with a dream who will never give up.

Working on the horse has helped me become a better trial lawyer and a better version of myself.

It’s easy to say: “just be you.” It’s hard to actually do it.

But it is a journey that’s well worth it.

Learn From Everyone

The Courtroom Deputies placed their bets.

And they got it right.

I found out after a recent trial that the Courtroom Deputies accurately predicted the verdict.

Impressive, but not surprising.

The Deputies are in court every day. They watch case after case, lawyer after lawyer, and they know what the Judge will do better than anyone else.

I have learned over the last nine years as a trial lawyer that the longer I do it, the more I realize how much I do not know and the more I realize how important it is to consider others’ point of views (which is why focus groups are essential).

Trial lawyers have egos. (You can’t do this job well without one). It takes a confident person to turn down an offer and try the case.

But, if unchecked, the ego can prevent you from considering other point of views. And that is dangerous for you and your client.

The people who decide our cases are normally not lawyers. They are good, regular people (just like the Courtroom Deputies).

And their opinions matter.

Learn from everyone, regardless of whether they have “esquire” behind their name.

You Need a Lawyer With Grit

There is one thing that separates good from great.

Grit.

All great trial lawyers have it.

“Great trial lawyers did not become great overnight. They are gritty individuals who often lost in their early careers and did not lose sight of the long-term goal of improving and learning from each loss. They were not easily deterred or discouraged by early setbacks and failures. They were willing to travel the long road and exert enormous effort to become great trial lawyers.”

-United States District Judge Mark W. Bennett (Ret.)

Great trial lawyers are “not afraid to die on a treadmill.”

I don’t know where grit comes from, or why some have it and others don’t.

But it’s real.

And it makes a difference (and not just for trial lawyers).

Experience Matters

You are standing in the middle of the courtroom.

The jury is staring at you. And the judge is waiting.

What you decide to do next matters.

And it is informed not just by the few weeks of preparation you did for that case, but by that preparation AND who you have become as a trial lawyer and a person.

When you hire me, you don’t just get a trial lawyer for your case.

You get me:

Nine years in and around courtrooms.

The lessons I learned from my losses.

And my wins.

Every training I’ve attended.

All the books I’ve read.

My community.

My mentors.

Who I have become as a trial lawyer.

And who I have become as a person, a husband, and a father.

Every decision we make is informed by our experiences.

So if you are a young lawyer, seek out the experiences you want/need to accomplish your goals. If the job you are in or considering will not help you get those experiences, make a change.

Never forget this:

Early in your career, prioritize getting the right experiences over money.

You and your clients will be better for it.

Prepare For Trial – Nothing Else Matters

If you try cases, only five things matter.

Everything else is a distraction.

1. Jury Selection

2. Opening Statement

3. Direct Examinations

4. Cross-Examinations

5. Closing Argument

That’s it.

Effective trial lawyers approach everything that they do with an eye towards those five things.

There really is no need to get lost in the pretrial “games.”

Just prepare for trial.

The other side will take notice, and your client will be better for it.

Judges Are People Too

“You’re doing too much; it’s just a bench trial.”

Wrong.

A bench trial is still a trial: opening statement, direct examinations, cross examinations, and closing argument.

Judges are people too. They make decisions just like jurors, so it is in our client’s benefit to approach bench trials the same way we approach jury trials.

As such, with the exception of jury selection, the preparation and presentation for a bench trial should be the same as a jury trial.

And the other side will not be prepared for it, because they will expect that you will approach the trial like it’s “just a bench trial.”

(Bonus: The Judge will appreciate your effort and their verdict may reflect that.)

ChatGPT Will Never Replace The Trial Lawyer

Sorry, ChatGPT.

You can’t replace the trial lawyer.

There will always be a need for those willing to stand up in a courtroom.

For those who advocate on behalf of others.

And for those who bring humanity to our justice system.

There will always be a need for the trial lawyer.

Tools like ChatGPT will help the trial lawyer, but they will never replace the trial lawyer.

Because the law needs people.

“The law is an amazing tool, but it has limits. Good people, on the other hand, don’t have limits. The law is not in the business of forgiveness or redemption. The law cannot compel us to love each other or respect each other. It cannot cancel hate or conquer evil; teach grace or extinguish passions. The law cannot achieve these things, not by itself. It takes people—brave and strong and extraordinary people.”

-Preet Bharara

We Are Safety Attorneys

“What about the next person?”

A few weeks ago, a family member was injured.

On the way to get a coffee, they tripped and fell on uneven sidewalk.

It did damage: bleeding, bruising, and a concussion. And there is still a scar.

It is a highly trafficked area. And, after investigating, we learned that multiple people had been badly hurt by that same uneven sidewalk.

Ridiculous.

So I asked the family member for permission to pursue it.

But there was hesitation.

Pursuing a personal injury case is not an easy decision. You expose yourself to scrutiny, and you have to deal with attorneys.

It’s a pain.

But what is not fair is the stigma that goes along with it:

You become one of “them.”

You know who I’m talking about: the people who file lawsuits.

The people responsible for rising healthcare and insurance costs.

The people trying to get something for nothing, like in the McDonald’s Coffee Case:

A 79-year-old woman, who suffered 3rd degree burns in her pelvic region, hospitalized for 8 days, and 2 years of medical treatment because McDonald’s did not take safety seriously.

That’s right: McDonald’s knew their coffee was too hot; their own documents showed that more than 700 people had been burned by their coffee.

And when she tried to settle her case for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses, guess what McDonalds did?

They refused.

Frivolous lawsuit, right?

When my family member hesitated, it was not because they did not want to deal with me (despite that being a completely legitimate reason 😜). It was because of Corporate America’s (i.e., tort reform’s) false messaging.

So I asked them: “What about the next person?”

And they agreed to let me take a shot.

One week after I got involved, the sidewalk was fixed.

There will be no next person.

After a frustrating mistrial last fall, a colleague sent me an uplifting note reminding me why we do this work:

“It wasn’t the FDA that brought down big tobacco, it was trial attorneys. It wasn’t Congress that on its own put in regulations about tractor-trailer drivers—it was trial attorneys beating the hell out of trucking companies in the courtroom that got those laws passed.

The government does not have the resources to protect the public or the consumer—we are it. What we do should not be looked down upon, but should be honored. Are there bad apples? Sure. But the majority of us go to war every day, not because we are motivated by lining our pockets, but because we care about our communities.

This is a fight we need to win—it is a fight that will be hard, long, and like any war, we will have losses along the way. But at the end of this fight, we will win because the law is on our side. Society has just lost sight of why tort law exists in the first place—it is there to protect, to make things safer, to not shift burdens, to hold those who make bad decisions fully accountable and responsible for those bad decisions.”

We are safety attorneys.

The Supreme Court and a Sick Giraffe

“If a sign at the entrance to a zoo says ‘come see the elephant, lion, hippo, and giraffe,’ and a temporary sign is added saying ‘the giraffe is sick,’ you would reasonably assume that the others are in good health.” N.L.R.B. v. SW Gen., Inc., 137 S. Ct. 929, 940 (2017) (Roberts, J.).

That is the analogy Chief Justice Roberts used when explaining the term: expressio unius est exclusio alterius, which means “expressing one item of [an] associated group or series excludes another left unmentioned.” Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73, 80 (2002).

I have used Justice Roberts’s Zoo Animal analogy when making a statutory construction argument, not just because it was fun, but because it helped me make my argument.

Effective writing is when you communicate your argument clearly so that the reader does not have to work to “get it.” And analogies, like Justice Robert’s Zoo Animal analogy, help with that.

(Analogies also help when speaking to juries, but more on that in a later post).

Takeaway: Analogies help, so use them.