It is common knowledge that a person who causes an accident because they were texting and driving is responsible for any injuries resulting from the accident. However, this week a New Jersey appeals court may have expanded that liability to the person sending the driver text messages, writing that “…a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.”
The accident in question happened in 2009 when an 18 year-old driver crashed his truck into a motorcycle carrying two people. The man and woman on the motorcycle suffered serious injuries and had to have parts of their legs amputated. The accident occurred less than 30 seconds after the driver’s friend, a 17 year-old, sent the driver a text message. The man and woman not only sued the driver, but also sued the friend who sent the text message. In this case the court held that there was not enough evidence to prove that the 17-year old texter knew the driver would view the text while driving, but the court’s new language does leave the possibility open for remote texters to be held liable in other cases.
The idea that a remote texter may be held liable for an accident is a new concept in the legal arena and may have far reaching repercussions. The National Safety Council estimates that texting while driving causes about 1.6 million accidents per year which is almost 25% of all car accidents. The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimates that texting while driving causes about 330,000 injuries per year.