Knowingly texting a driver that has an accident could make you liable, court says

By on August 30, 2013, 7:30 AM
texting, driving, texting and driving, new jersey court, liable

We all know that texting and driving is banned in the majority of states in the US and is, at the very least, frowned upon elsewhere. But did you know that you might also be liable for knowingly texting someone that is driving in the event they are involved in an accident?

The allegation stems from a New Jersey case where 18-year-old Kyle Best was driving and texting with his 17-year-old girlfriend, Shannon Colonna. Roughly 17 seconds after sending her a text, Best’s truck veered across the double yellow line and struck a motorcycle head-on. The two passengers on the bike, David and Linda Kubert, suffered extensive injuries.

Colonna was included in the Kubert’s lawsuit for damages but she was ultimately found not liable as she contested she had no idea Best was driving. The New Jersey appeals court did, however, leave the ruling open to future precedent.

The ruling stated they hold that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.

What is your opinion on the matter? Do you believe an accident caused by texting is the sole responsibility of the driver or should the person on the other end also take some of the blame? Also, how could anyone effectively prove that someone did or didn’t know if the person they were chatting with was driving?




User Comments: 26

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2 people like this | Arris Arris said:

What a load of crap. It's completely the driver/receiver of messages decision on whether to answer the text message or not, their responsibility. American courts being daft as usual.

2 people like this | yukka, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Driver can pull over to read a text

3 people like this | SteveSaywell SteveSaywell said:

I don't think it is the senders fault at all, even if they know someone is driving.

For example if someone texts me saying they are just leaving and I reply with, for example, "text me when you arrive", I knew they were driving as they've just told me but I don't expect them to read it while driving.

Stupid for to be even considered the senders fault.

1 person liked this | ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

If someone is en route to a destination, say the grocery store, and I forgot to tell them to grab milk, I'm more likely to text them "Grab some milk" than call them. If they were a responsible driver, they wouldn't read a text until they arrive at the store. This is completely retarded. This is just like blaming Remington for a shooting because they supplied the ammunition.

MilwaukeeMike said:

What a load of crap. It's completely the driver/receiver of messages decision on whether to answer the text message or not, their responsibility. American courts being daft as usual.

Yes, but don't forget one of American's favorite past times, which is pointing the finger and finding someone else to blame for their problems.

The good news is that proving someone 'knows' something is really really hard. It's why libel and slander are really hard to nail people with; it's because you have to prove they have malicious intent. Proving what someone knows is tough.

Rasta211 said:

They going to start charging navigating map app developers too when a user checks their phone for updated traffic routes too?

fimbles fimbles said:

Does this mean I can sue O2 and other companys if I crash after receiving a marketing message from them?

1 person liked this | Cycloid Torus Cycloid Torus said:

I suspect over-interpretation here. Article says "court did .. leave the ruling open to future precedent". I take this to mean that the allegation of responsibility in this specific instance was not considered to be a valid argument, but that there might just possibly be circumstances where it could be shown that an absent person (with money) involved in texting might somehow be shown to bear a degree of responsibility for the actions of the identified responsible party (with not enough money). I take this to mean something like direct wiring to the brain, a Pavlovian button-push.

The real story is how strange our court system is. Here we have the misfortune of the victims, facing life long issues (really tragic both for them and for society at large), and a court system which here has permitted the entertainment of responsibility for an absent party. Consider the possibilities. There is an automated billboard which has a change in display which is viewed by a driver who claims in the police report that the sign distracted him. With the follow-the-money attitude, I would expect the billboard company to be sued as liable for the accident. If I were in the ambulance chasing business, I would be looking into just that.

Other possibilities abound. Consider suing the radio station which plays the next advertisement too loudly. Or the jogger who stumbles, or the biker who weaves, or even the kids in the backseat when a sudden loud spat distracts Mom, the driver (no skip that, no money).

Which makes sense to you? Liability for the absent texter or for the blatant billboarder. In my book, the driver is like the captain of his ship - he is responsible to operate safely and without collision. Only rare circumstances can move any responsibility to another party and those circumstances must reflect a truly unexpected element. Something like a rock through the windshield...

As always, IANAL.

2 people like this | glj58 glj58 said:

Wow. The driver is the one that chooses to look at the text and look away from the road. Guess this is a way for a driver to get out of taking responsibility for their actions.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This is plain ridiculous, it is nothing more than incompetence and immaturity on the drivers part. If the driver can't be bothered by putting the phone down, why prosecute those texting the driver?

2 people like this | Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

This is absolutely ridiculous. I don't know how it could be proven in court that it's the senders fault. Reading texts while driving is purely the drivers stupid action and if an accident occurs while the driver is reading a text, they should throw the book at them imo.

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I think it's up to the driver. I'll text my family when I leave the office and say something like, "Hey, I'm headed home. Stopping by a restaurant. What to you want to eat?" So they know I'm about to start my car. But they are sending me an order for what food they're craving, which I'll read when I get to the destination.

wastedkill said:

So let me get this straight the sender of the txt has super powers to force the person to check his phone just enough to get him/her to crash their car?

This seems like something they could also implement on a murder case so if you txt someone that is murdering a person then you are equally liable to the murder because of course you txted the person whilst they were murdering them so you of course must be the cause of it.

1 person liked this | Lurker101 said:

This is wrong. The person sending the text has no liability. The blame sits squarely on the cretin who's fiddling with his/her phone while driving.

ikesmasher said:

This defeats the purpose of texting, which is to send a message to a phone0 that a receiving person can respond to whenever he/she wishes, ex a moment where they ARENT driving

.

Tygerstrike said:

You guys are tossing out blanket statements. The wording is "if they knew or should know" That the driver is driving. Not, oh I cant send this text they might be driving. And they would have an easy fix for this but the american consumers self-entitlement will keep it from happening. All the companies have to do is disable texts for anyone moving over 5 mph. They could tie to your GPS sensor which can and does give you a "relative" speed. Then deliver the texts messages when you arrive at your destination or drop below 5 mph. Sounds super simple and would probably save so many lives, but the american consumer would consider that "TO MUCH" interference and interupts thier god given right to text while they drive.

ikesmasher said:

You guys are tossing out blanket statements. The wording is "if they knew or should know" That the driver is driving. Not, oh I cant send this text they might be driving. And they would have an easy fix for this but the american consumers self-entitlement will keep it from happening. All the companies have to do is disable texts for anyone moving over 5 mph. They could tie to your GPS sensor which can and does give you a "relative" speed. Then deliver the texts messages when you arrive at your destination or drop below 5 mph. Sounds super simple and would probably save so many lives, but the american consumer would consider that "TO MUCH" interference and interupts thier god given right to text while they drive.

Sorry, but if anyone ever locks out my phone because of speed im not buying that phone. Not because id hate not texting while driving (which I do not do) but because if my brakes fail, or if I need to make an emergency call while driving, then I wouldnt be able to do it.

Not to mention the PASSENGERS OF THE VEHICLE wouldnt be able to use their phones.

The better way is for people to stop being stupid. Which will never happen. If someone tries texting while driving then they accept the possible consequences.

Cycloid Torus Cycloid Torus said:

The better way is for people to stop being stupid. Which will never happen. If someone tries texting while driving then they accept the possible consequences.

Umm, lest we forget.. the victims...and the consequences we share as their community. What we could find useful is a method for better controlling egregious stupidity / foolishness. Something more effective than the Darwin awards would be nice.

ikesmasher said:

Umm, lest we forget.. the victims...and the consequences we share as their community. What we could find useful is a method for better controlling egregious stupidity / foolishness. Something more effective than the Darwin awards would be nice.

Giving anyone who causes an accident via cell phone activity (which is fairly easy to find out) a sentence. Or a massive fine. Make it as intolerable as drunk driving. We dont put breathalyzers in steering wheels, why should we put speed detecting software in phones?

1 person liked this | Lurker101 said:

The wording is "if they knew or should know" That the driver is driving. Not, oh I cant send this text they might be driving.

Irrelevant. The onus is still on the driver. Either you're smart enough to know you shouldn't be farting about with your phone while you're driving or you shouldn't be driving.

Railman said:

All the companies have to do is disable texts for anyone moving over 5 mph. They could tie to your GPS sensor which can and does give you a "relative" speed. Then deliver the texts messages when you arrive at your destination or drop below 5 mph. Sounds super simple and would probably save so many lives, but the american consumer would consider that "TO MUCH" interference and interupts thier god given right to text while they drive.
What a daft suggestion. It would be easy for a driver to disable just turn off the GPS! You are also making the suggestion that everyone travelling over 5 mph is a driver. I could be a passenger. Most days I receive text messages whilst travelling at 90 mph and can safely read them as I am on a train.

Emexrulsier said:

Typical response from the sue em all country. A driver should always be held 100% responsible for any incident involved in a vehicle they are operating. Next they will try and sue passengers who talk to drivers or maybe sneeze and make a driver jump and cause in accident.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Typical response from the sue em all country.
If that is a typical response, that is one county that needs to be a ghost town.

Tygerstrike said:

You guys still dont see the need for taking such drastic measures as I suggested. Yes there are situations where a person can be travelling at a normal speed and still get thier texts and emails. My point was that the American consumer would rathe risk thier lives and potentially the lives of everyone on the road in a 1000 ft radius then NOT text and drive. Something has to give. How many school children have to die before we as a whole put our foot down and say enough is enough? How many family members do WE have to lose before something is done? What is the acceptable limit of deaths from texting and driving? My point is that we can sit here and debate this situation all we like, but its not changing whats going on OUT THERE!!! We can set an example but stupid is as stupid does. I cant tell you how many ppl I see with thier phones plastered to thier heads while driving and we have a hands free law in my state. This tells me these ppl think THEY ARE ABOVE THE LAW!!!! And when they kill someone from thier inability to even set thier phone down, we slap them on the wrist and charge them with Vehicular Manslaughter. Out in about 5 if there is ANY jailtime. We either need stiffer laws that really punish these jackasses or we need draconian measures.

learninmypc learninmypc said:

I agree with it completely. Too many drivers have the attitude "it'll never happen to me". Next thing they know they're asking why they're in the ER or ICU.

Railman said:

You guys still dont see the need for taking such drastic measures as I suggested. Something has to give. How many school children have to die before we as a whole put our foot down

Err! Put your foot down on the accelerator?

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