Can others be held responsible for texting accidents

In a number of posts, we have noted how texting while driving can lead to accidents, especially when teens are behind the wheel. Indeed, there are studies showing that more adults text than teenagers (because there are more adults on the road, period) but a higher percentage of teens are likely to communicate with one hand while the other hand is on the wheel.

When an accident occurs due to texting and driving, the offending driver is usually held liable (and sued for causing the accident. However, should the person who sent the driver the message also be held accountable?

A New Jersey appellate court is considering this question. It comes after a Morristown trial court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by two injured bicyclists against a teen who sent a number of texts to a friend who she knew was driving at the time. The driving teen crashed into the bicyclists, causing them both to lose a leg as a result.

In a separate matter, the bicyclists settled their lawsuit against the driver who hit them.

Essentially, the bicyclists want to impose a duty of care on people who send text messages to friends whom they know are driving. The theory is that they know that texting while driving is dangerous, and that an accident could occur if the person they are trying to reach is not paying attention to the road.

Put another way, if it is foreseeable that a driver who is distracted by a text message could cause an accident, then the sender of the text could be equally as liable as the driver.

Source: ABA, Can a remote texter be liable if driver is distracted by the message?, May 6, 2013

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