Can You Be Held Liable for Sending a Text to a Driver?

Lately, the public and the media have had a heightened awareness of distracted driving. More states are enacting strict bans on the use of cellphones and other devices while driving, and public campaigns against texting while driving have been mounted by more states. In New Jersey, a decision by our court of appeals has rocked state tort law by potentially extending liability in vehicle collisions to persons not present in either vehicle or anywhere near the scene, but who were exchanging text messages with the driver just prior to the accident.

In a decision handed down in August 2013, the court determined that a person who actively encourages a driver to respond to text messages while driving can be held liable along with the driver if the distraction leads to an accident under the following conditions:

  • The texter actually knew the driver would view the text while driving.
  • The texter has special reason to know the driver would view the text while driving.

The decision, while groundbreaking, is limited in effect. In fact, the court found that the texter in that case could not be held liable because of insufficient evidence to show she knew or should have known that the driver would view her texts while behind the wheel. Nevertheless, the court’s holding opens the door for third-party texters to be liable under a narrow set of circumstances. Our car accident attorneys are following these developments and are ready to use this new precedent when appropriate in pursuit of the best interests of our injured clients.

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