Can a Sender of a Text Message be Liable for Causing a Car Accident?
A judge in Morris, New Jersey was recently tasked with deciding a novel legal issue: can a person who sends a text message be held liable if the receiver of the message injures others or crashes while reading the message.
The issue came out of a lawsuit that was filed because of a 2009 accident involving nineteen-year-old Wharton resident, Kyle Best. While he was driving, Best looked down at his cellphone to read a text message. With his eyes off the road, Best’s vehicle crossed into oncoming traffic and crashed into the motorcycle of David and Linda Kubert. As a result of the horrible accident, one of David’s legs was torn off and one of Linda’s legs had to be amputated.
In addition to Best, the Kuberts’ sued Shannon Colonna, who sent the text message. Kubert’s lawyer argues that Colonna aided and abetted Best’s negligence when she texted him, because she knew or should have known that he was driving at the time.
Ultimately, the court found in favor of Colonna, and declined to extend liability to senders of text messages. The court reasoned that if such liability were to exist, a person could possibly be liable for causing any form of distraction.
Texting While Driving: a Deadly Problem
National statistics show that texting while driving, and other forms of distracted driving are a significant cause of car crashes nationwide. In 2010, 3,092 motorists lost their lives and 416,000 were injured because of distracted driving.
Research shows that sending or reading a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, this is enough time to cover the entire length of a football field-all while blind. It is little wonder that motorists who text are 23 times more likely to be in a crash.
It is illegal in New Jersey to text or use hand-held cellphones while driving, but there will always be those who will flout the law for the sake of staying connected. If you or a loved one have been injured by a distracted driver, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. An attorney can investigate the circumstances of the accident and work to hold those who are responsible accountable for their negligence.