On October 28, 2013, a 65-year-old Vancouver man was attempting to cross a street using his walker when a passing vehicle struck him. The driver of the vehicle sped away while the man lay injured on the street. One week later, he died in the hospital.

The driver of the vehicle is believed to be 30-year-old Jessica Van Wechel, who was arrested after she confided to a coworker that she had killed a man with her car and that she had been texting at the time. The coworker reported Van Wechel to police, who arrested her shortly thereafter.

Police obtained a warrant for Van Wechel’s cell phone records, which show that she was near the scene at the time of the crash and that she had made a phone call shortly after Dewey was struck by the car. Paint chips from Dewey’s clothing were also matched to Van Wechel’s car. She is currently awaiting trial for hit-and-run resulting in a death and vehicular homicide.

In Los Angeles, the laws governing cellular phone use while driving are fairly straightforward and unambiguous. It is illegal for drivers to send, read or write emails or text messages while driving. Drivers are permitted to make phone calls with the use of a hands-free device, such as a Bluetooth earpiece or speakerphone. The fines associated with violating these laws amount to a $20 base fee for a first-time offense and a $50 fee for subsequent offenses. However, certain municipalities may impose additional fees as they see fit.

In general, it’s always advisable to abstain from using your cell phone while driving. However, if you feel that it is absolutely necessary, you should equip yourself with a headset for phone calls or use dictation software to send text messages. It is also a good idea to simply pull over to send important messages or make a quick call.

If you’ve been involved in a serious accident caused by someone texting while driving, speak with a skilled personal injury lawyer about your options.