Getting Sued Over Sending a Text Message?

The American Bar Association Journal ran a story this week that may surprise many of you regarding texting and driving. No, it isn’t about the risks and harm associated with texting and driving, it’s about the person sending the text to the driver! In a New Jersey appellate court, the Court has held that “a remote texter can be held liable to third parties for injuries caused when the distracted driver has an accident.” You may be surprised, but the Court has put a limitation on it – the texter must known that the person they are sending the texts to was driving at the time. (Read the opinion here: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a1128-12.pdf)

In New Jersey, the law says that a passenger in a motor vehicle has the duty to “not interfere with the driver’s operations.” Furthermore, the Court opined, “When the sender texts a person who is then driving, knowing that the driver will immediately view the text, the sender has disregarded the attendant and foreseeable risk of harm to the public. The risk is substantial, as evidenced by the dire consequences in this and similar cases where texting drivers have caused severe injuries or death.”

Even though the appellate court affirmed summary judgment, the opinion did confirm, “[w]e hold that, when a texter knows or has special reason to know that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, the texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time.”

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This past May, Governor Rick Scott signed into law SB 52, the ban of manual texting while driving making it a secondary offense with a $30 first time fine and $60 second time fine. 41 of the 50 states have imposed some sort of ban on texting while driving.

According to http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com, in 2011 at least 23% of auto collision involved cell phones, with 3,331 fatal accidents. Most likely you have sent or received a text message while driving. But consider the risk associated with it: sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, BLIND!

While this ruling in New Jersey may not affect you or loved one today, it may not be long before this argument is made in your case in Florida! Consider taking the Pledge from distraction.org and help make the roadways safer. If you or a love one are injured and you think text messaging or a cell phone may have caused the accident, please contact us today!



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