New Jersey Court Holds that Remote Texter Can Be Liable For Car Accident

Car accident lawyers in Johnson City, TN know that drivers in the state of Tennessee are prohibited from texting while driving.  Unfortunately, the Huffington Post has recently reported that texting bans are notoriously difficult for law enforcement to actually enforce. The problem is that law enforcement typically has to see a driver actually texting in order to pull him over and cite him.  It can be hard to tell whether a motorist is actually on his phone or is just looking down at his lap, especially when cars are traveling at high speeds on the highway, and police can’t easily see what the motorist is doing. 

Unfortunately, the difficulty in enforcing distracted driving laws is one reason why there are 660,000 American adults using a gadget behind the wheel at any given daylight hour.  The courts have long held that these drivers can be held accountable if they cause an accident while distracted. But a court in New Jersey recently took things a step further and actually held that a remote person sending a text message could also be held liable to car accident victims under certain circumstances.

Senders of Text Messages Could Be Liable for Distracted Driving Accidents 

The New Jersey court of appeals was asked to decide a question that had never been asked before: Can a remote texter be held legally liable to third parties for injuries caused by a distracted driver who is involved in a car accident? In other words, if you are texting someone and that person gets into a crash, can you be sued?

The New Jersey court of appeals answered this question in the affirmative: the remote texter could be sued. However, the texter could be held liable only if he or she knew the recipient was viewing the texts while driving.  In the particular case the court was hearing, there was insufficient evidence to show that the defendant texter was aware that her friend who caused the accident was driving at the time she was sending him texts.

The court made clear that the mere act of sending a message, by itself, is not sufficient to make the remote texter accountable.   Simply sending a text does not compel the recipient to read the message immediately while driving.  However, the court also concluded in the published opinion  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.”

Since this court was the first to address a question of this type, it is possible that state courts in other jurisdictions will follow the lead of the New Jersey court and will also hold remote texters accountable. If this occurs, it would be similar to dram shop laws that hold bars who sell alcohol to intoxicated parties accountable for the car accidents that result from drunk driving.

A texter who knows that his or her texts are being read by a driver knowingly increases the risk of an accident, just as a bartender does by selling alcohol to a drunken patron.  The texter, like the bartender, should be responsible for creating the dangerous situation, and the injured car accident victim will have another defendant to hold accountable and to pursue a claim against to receive full compensation for auto accident losses.

Car accident lawyers in Johnson City, TN can help distracted driving accident victims. Contact Meade Injury Law Group today at 1-800-669-7125 for a free case consultation.


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