Can you be liable for texting someone while they are driving if they cause an accident as a result of your text ?
I recently read about a very interesting case that relates to texting and driving. An accident in New Jersey which caused very serious injuries was the result of distracted driving; more specifically texting and driving. The question that was put to the courts was whether or not a remote texter can be held liable for texting someone else while they were driving and that driver causes an accident. Before I start, let me clarify again that this accident took place in the United States of America and the laws are very different than Canadian laws and the laws in Ontario.
The New Jersey court deemed that the person who sends the text can only be help responsible if they knew their text was being viewed by the recipient while they driving. In the case they presented they concluded that there was insufficient evidence that the person who sent the text would have known well enough that the text she sent to her friend was going to be responded to while he was driving. The court ruled that the “texter” could not be help liable due to insufficient knowledge and the motion was defeated. An accident that caused serious injury to two motorcyclists occurred within less than 30 seconds of when the drover’s phone records showed that he received a text from the texter.
To paraphrase, in a nutshell, it was decided that someone sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has reason to know that the recipient will view the text as they are driving. In this case, there was insufficient evidence to prove that the “texter” had such knowledge when she texted the driver. The courts stated that she did not actively encourage the driver to text her while driving and that their relationship was not close enough to have known how the driver would have responded upon receiving her text. The court also determined that the act of sending a text message is not actively encouraging someone to immediately read the text or respond. To read more about this case, visit the ABA Journal.
As a personal injury lawyer, this case is extremely interesting to me because if the circumstances were slightly different, the courts may have decided differently and held the “texter” responsible. Something to think about before you text ……
What do you think about this?