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Text Senders Can Be Held Liable For Third Party Injuries

I believe everyone knows texting and driving is under serious scrutiny in most states. Massachusetts and New York have strict texting and driving laws. How about a text sender? Have you ever sent a text to someone while they where driving?

A New Jersey court of appeals has held a text sender can be held liable to third parties for injuries when the distracted driver has an accident. This is only the case when the sender of the text via another location “knew” the texts were being viewed by the driver.

How did this come about? 17-year-old Shannon Colonna was texting the driver, 18-year-old Kyle Best, who caused an accident resulting in serious injury to two motorcyclists after Kyle Best had left the YMCA during September 2009. Ms. Colonna has sent two texts to Mr. Best before the accident occurred while one of the texts was sent two hours before the accident.

The New Jersey Superior Court concluded, according to ABAJournal, “We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has a special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving”.

During the course of the investigation it was found Ms. Colonna had texted Mr. Best 30 seconds before the accident according to phone records. The Superior Court concluded the plaintiffs in the case have not presented enough evidence to prove Ms. Colonna has knowledge when she texted Mr. Best.texting and driving

The result is the state of New Jersey has stated anyone who knowingly sends a text to a driver with the intent for them to read it can be held responsible for any car accidents resulting in bodily injury or death.

The question I have is how could a court prove someone is sending a text message with the intent they are going to read it? Wouldn’t it be the drivers responsibility to not read a text messages while driving? What if someone calls a person on the phone? If they answer it, is the person making the phone call held responsible too?

In the case of the driver viewing a text, how would anyone know when or if it was viewed? Just because a text is sent 30 seconds before an accident doesn’t mean the text caused the accident. In this case Mr. Best must have admitted to it since the claims against him were settled out of court.

I realize there have been cases where a person left their keys in the car. Then a thief steals the vehicle, runs a red light, then injures a third party. The person who owns the vehicle is held liable since he/she should have not left the keys in the car. That makes a little sense to me since you, me, whomever, could be held liable if we left our keys in the car.

In my opinion, I believe this was more about money (and probably anger) to receive as much monetary compensation as possible. On the other hand, this has opened doors to a new standard of litigation with cell phones and texting and driving. Your best bet is don’t text and drive and even better….don’t text to a person who is driving.

Image Credit: VCU CNS

Greg Fowler

Greg Fowler

Managing Member of AutoInsureSavings LLC, Greg enjoys writing articles to help drivers save on anything related to automobiles. Travel and enjoying the outdoors are some of his hobbies. The best way to reach him is at Google+ or Facebook Profile.

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