Text a driver, share liability Legislators are continuing to enact more laws in more states banning texting while driving, ensuring those who do face criminal and civil penalties should they injure or kill someone. But that’s not the only legal pitfall. If states follow the New Jersey Appeals Court’s lead, someone texting from their living room couch might also find themselves defendants in a distracted driving incident. At issue is the case of an 18-year-old driver who struck and seriously injured two motorcycle riders after receiving a text from his girlfriend. The victims settled with the driver, but they also sued the 17-year-old girl, claiming she was responsible for the crash as well, because she sent the text. The Appeals Court found in favor of the girl since she apparently didn’t know her boyfriend was driving when she sent the text. However, in their ruling the court agreed a person can be liable if they send a text to someone they know to be driving and that person causes a crash. Many agree texting while driving is dangerous and should be banned but some, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, question whether this decision goes too far. The ruling certainly raises a number of questions and a reporter from CNN has attempted to answer some of the legal quandaries this ruling will likely bring to the table.
- Is it now a crime to text a driver in New Jersey? No, but the ruling could make a texter civilly liable for injuries and property damage.
- Could it lead to new laws? The short answer is yes. State lawmakers have already shown a willingness to tackle the dangers of distracted driving.
- How do I know if someone I’m texting is driving? It’s a good question with no easy answer. How can one ascertain an individual in another car is actively texting just before a collision?
- How do I avoid liability? Don’t text someone, if you know they’re driving.