ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A decision by an Orange County judge could mean drivers who cause accidents while using their mobile devices could be forced to pay much more than they might expect.
Bobby Turner said he was just going to a Circle K store for coffee one evening. He said he was turning right off of East Colonial Drive, just like he often does, but that time it changed his life forever.
"Next think I know, wham, my heard went back into the window," said Turner.
Turner said he hurt his neck and couldn't work for nine months. He said he's still in pain but able to work sporadically.
Orlando attorney Matt Morgan said the other driver's phone records suggest she was using her mobile device when she hit Turner from behind..
Morgan said that has led to a landmark ruling in central Florida by Orange County Circuit Judge Thomas Mihok involving punitive damages.
"This ruling allows us to ask the jury to award punitive damages, in other words to punish the defendant and if the defendant is punished then they have to pay that personally," said Morgan.
Morgan said the new ruling is a warning to other local drivers who use their mobile devices while driving -- if they cause accidents, and think that's what their insurance is for, they could be mistaken.
Morgan said there was activity on the woman's mobile device one minute, and the next minute she called her mother to say she had just crashed.
The other driver's attorney would not comment, but documents show he challenges Morgan's conclusions about the cellphone evidence.
Turner said he hopes the awareness his case brings will help save lives and spare others the pain and financial difficulties he is suffering by convincing drivers to pull over before texting, if the message is really that important.