New Jersey Court: Sender of text may be liable if recipient crashes car
As most New Jersey motorists are well aware, it is unlawful for drivers to text while operating a motor vehicle in the Garden State. In fact, if a driver’s decision to engage in this hazardous habit causes a car crash, the driver may be held liable for any injuries or damages resulting from the texting-while-driving accident.
However, an appellate court decision in New Jersey has recently extended this potential liability to not only include the driver who was texting at the time of the accident, but also the individual sending the text message to the driver in the first place – or at least in certain circumstances.
Potential liability for text sender in New Jersey
The recent New Jersey Appellate Division decision stems from a motor vehicle accident that occurred when an 18-year-old motorist – who was driving a pickup at the time of the accident – crossed the double center line and tragically hit a couple riding their motorcycle in the other lane going the opposite direction. Sadly, the accident resulted in severe injuries to the couple riding the motorcycle, including a shattered leg for one and nearly severing the leg of the other.
The resulting investigation found that the driver of the pickup was texting a friend at the time of the crash. Ultimately, the driver and the victims reached a settlement regarding the accident, at which point the victims concentrated their attention on the friend that that was texting the driver on that fateful day.
When coming to its decision, the New Jersey court made note that an individual does not have to commit the wrongful conduct themselves to be liable, but instead, it is enough if he or she give substantial encouragement or assistance to the actions of another that he or she knows will cause injury.
In the case of texting while driving, the court determined that when a texter knows, or has “special reason to know,” that the recipient of the text is driving, and also likely to read the text while behind the wheel, the sender of the text has a duty not send the message at that time. Consequently, if the individual does send a text in these circumstances, he or she may be held liable for any resulting injuries.
Interestingly, the court in this instance determined that there was no evidence that the sender of the text knew the recipient was driving at the time of the accident, and thus could not be held liable. However, the opinion does create additional avenues of possible recourse for those injured by texting drivers in the future.
Accordingly, if a driver distracted by his or her cellphone has injured you or a loved one, it is important to contact an experienced car accident injury attorney. A knowledgeable attorney will be aware of the most recent developments in the law and can provide helpful guidance and advice as to your rights and options given your circumstances.