Lawsuits involving texting and driving are normally against the person driving and not the person sending a text to the driver. However, a court case in New Jersey is shaking things up.
A court in New Jersey has ruled that anyone who knowingly texts a driver could be held legally responsible if the driver is involved in a crash.
Here's the backstory: In 2009, Kyle Best was driving his car down a rural highway and was texting his friend, Shannon Colonna. During the drive, Best received a text from Colonna nearly the same time as David and Linda Kubert were riding on a motorcycle in the opposite lane. Best was temporarily focused on the text from Colonna rather than where he was driving, causing him to drift into the other lane, slamming into the Kuberts.
David's leg was almost severed in the collision and his wife's left leg was shattered, her thighbone protruding out of the skin. As the Kuberts laid on the road helpless, Best called 911, just 17 seconds after Colonna had sent him the text. After ending the call with the 911 operator, Best sent two more texts to Colonna, although the content of those messages has not been publicly released.
Since both Linda and David, who each lost a leg, were almost killed, they went after Best. The couple settled with Best for $500,000, but they also sued Colonna, who had texted him shortly before the crash.
The Kuberts' attorney, Stephen Weinstein, argued that Colonna was also responsible for the incident because she texted Best despite knowing that he was driving. With her decision to text Best, Weinstein stated that Colonna was just as responsible as if she had been a passenger in the car and distracted Best.
However, the judge ruled that Colonna could not be held liable in this particular case because she didn't appear to know her boyfriend was driving at the time. The Kuberts appealed that decision.
But Weinstein's initial decision to go after Colonna actually worked. On Tuesday, the appeals court upheld the lower court ruling that Colonna didn't know Best was driving at the time of the crash. However, the three appeals court judges all agreed that texting a driver can make you liable for a crash.
The court stated, "We hold that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted."
Don't Text And Drive
Although Colonna was not held responsible for the crash, her text combined with Best's decision to text and drive almost cost David and Linda Kubert their lives. Even though not everyone who texts while driving will cause an accident, more than 50 percent of adults and 43 percent of teenagers do use their phones while driving, according to AT&T.
These statistics, along with the countless texting-related accidents that occur each year have prompted numerous anti-texting and driving campaigns. With a court now suggesting that people can be liable for accidents even if they are not driving, the legal damage resulting from texting and driving could drastically increase.
Posted: 2013-09-08 @ 9:51am PT
Legislation can help raise awareness on this issue but this is a personal responsibility slippery slope. Let’s get these drivers an asset on their phone that keeps them connected to their texts but allows them to make safe decisions while driving. Our efforts should focus on making that driver sustainably safer by altering bad habits instead of trying to find someone else to blame for a drivers bad choice.
I decided to tackle distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user, I built a texting asset called OTTER that is a simple and intuitive GPS based, texting auto reply app for smartphones. While driving, OTTER silences those distracting call ringtones and chimes unless a bluetooth is enabled. The texting auto reply allows anyone to schedule a ‘texting blackout period’ in any situation like a meeting or a lecture without feeling disconnected. This software is a social messaging tool for the end user that also empowers this same individual to be that sustainably safer driver.
Erik Wood, owner
OTTER apps (Since 2010. Free.)
do one thing well... be great.