driver behind the wheel using earbuds and talkingYes, it is illegal for any driver with headphones or earbuds in both ears to operate a vehicle on Virginia’s streets, roads, or highways. Earphones interfere with a motorist’s ability to hear car horns and other traffic sounds that might warn of danger. This means they impede the driver’s ability to react to vehicles or pedestrians nearby and increase the chances of an accident.

If you’re injured in a crash caused by a driver who’s talking on a phone or listening to music with earphones in both ears, you’re entitled to file a claim against that driver’s insurance company for your damages: medical bills, property damage, lost income, emotional trauma, and physical pain and suffering.

Exceptions to the Headphones Law

There are a few exceptions to Virginia’s no-earphone laws:

  • Motorcyclists may use helmets with built-in speakers as part of a communication system.
  • Drivers of emergency vehicles may use earphones for communication purposes.
  • Hearing impaired motorists may use prosthetic hearing aids while driving.
  • Drivers of vehicles weighing 26,000 pounds or more are permitted to use open-back, closed-ear, noise-canceling devices to enhance their hearing in environments with high noise levels.
  • Driving with a headphone or earbud in or on one ear is permissible.

A driver who is using earphones and does not fall into one of the excepted categories above is in violation of the law and could be held strictly liable for causing your accident.

The Role of Contributory Negligence

Proving that the driver who caused your wreck was in violation of the law at the time of the crash can be very helpful to your claim because of Virginia’s strict contributory negligence rule in personal injury cases. Most other states allow you to receive compensation for your damages even if you are partially at fault for your accident. Your award is simply reduced according to your percentage of fault—as long as it’s less than that of the other driver. In Virginia, however, you may not collect any compensation whatsoever if you are found to be even one percent responsible for the wreck that injured you.

For this reason, the other driver’s insurer, which is in business to make a profit above all else, will do everything it can to show that you were partially at fault in order to avoid paying your claim. If you can prove that the at-fault driver was using headphones, it will be harder for the insurance company to show that you contributed to the crash. For this reason, you’re well advised to consult an experienced attorney in a car accident claim involving the use of headphones or earbuds by the at-fault driver.

Helping Your Lawyer to Help You

In addition to informing your lawyer that you have reason to think the responsible driver was using earphones, there are several things you can do after your accident to gather evidence that shows the other driver’s responsibility for your crash. If you’re physically able to do so, take the following steps at the scene of the wreck:

  • Move to a safe place and call 9-1-1 to report the accident.
  • Take photos of all vehicles involved, especially their license plates and any external damage.
  • If you see headphones or earbuds inside the other car or on the ground, try to get photos of them.
  • Take photos, as well, of any skid marks, damaged poles or guardrails, road conditions, and other evidence at the scene of the wreck.
  • Exchange information with the other driver, but do not discuss the crash or get into an argument.
  • Get contact information from any witnesses to the accident.
  • Note the presence of nearby security or red-light cameras that might have footage of your wreck.
  • When the police arrive, answer their questions with basic information but do not elaborate on details.
  • Do not apologize or admit any fault to anyone.
  • If you’re not transported to a hospital, seek medical attention as soon as possible after the crash, even if you don’t feel you’re seriously injured.
  • Notify our own auto insurer of the accident.
  • Contact a car accident attorney, who will probably offer you a free first consultation to evaluate your case.

Your attorney can investigate your crash thoroughly, perhaps with the help of an accident reconstructionist, and work to prove the driver using earphones is 100% liable for your damages.

Have You Been Injured in a Crash Caused by a Driver Using Headphones?

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Working with Andrew and his team has been--without exception--one of the most pleasant, productive, and professional experiences of my adult life. I was seriously injured in an accident in July, 2018, in Virginia. I was driving a company vehicle that was registered in Maryland, for a company that was based in Wisconsin. And I live in New Jersey, where my personal vehicles are insured. The several jurisdictions involved presented a very unique case that demanded an experienced and nuanced strategy. I found Andrew Thomas (of Dulaney, Lauer, & Thomas) through some online research. And it is noteworthy that Andrew has worked the other side of the aisle--he used to work with insurance companies. Andrew took on my case with the assurance that he would work it with no less energy than he does each of his cases. At each turn, and with each question I had, Andrew and Paralegal Misty kept me informed, returned my calls, provided detailed explanations, and kept me feeling like I was in the loop and there was an eventual end to our journey. Nearly five years after the accident, we settled out of court for a significant sum in recognition of my personal injuries. The settlement was much more than I had expected. And without Andrew & Misty, I am sure the award would have been much less. If you are looking for professionalism, knowledge, dedication, answerability, responsiveness, integrity, and human-level communication from a personal injury attorney--look no further. You have found him. Thank you, Andrew and Misty. Gary Daley
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