Think of the Driver Before You Send a Text

Lawsuit Tests the Responsibility of Someone Who Texts a Driver

Before you send that text to someone, you may want to make sure that that person is not driving. Why? You may be liable for the collision or fatality that reading the text may cause. Sounds strange? Well, the legal theory is now being tested in Pennsylvania and has also been suggested in New Jersey.

In a lawsuit in Pennsylvania, the legal theory is now being tested as a result of a fatal crash. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania have imposed stricter penalties for distracted driving, signing a law that could add a five-year prison sentence for a driver who is involved in a fatal crashing while texting and driving.

The law was drafted and passed in memory of a volunteer firefighter who was killed in a motorcycle accident where it was found that the driver who caused the fatality was distracted by a text while driving. The family of the deceased individual also sued the person who sent the text to the driver. The Pennsylvania judge has allowed the legal theory to go forward against the sender.

Can You Be Responsible For Sending A Text to a Driver?

During the investigation of the fatality, through a search warrant, law enforcement found an opened text message on the driver’s cellphone. The lawsuit suggests that the sender of the text should have known that the driver who caused the crash was driving based on the evidence presented and therefore contributed to the driver’s negligence.

The attorney for the text sender dismisses the reasoning as illogical. Although his client admits to sending the text, his attorney argued that he had no way of knowing that the recipient of the text was driving. Furthermore, the exact time of the driver opening the text and when the crash actually occurred could not be completely verified in terms of time. What was confirmed was that there was an open text on the cell phone of the driver who caused the collision.

In New Jersey, the courts have a history to identify and set legal precedents. In a ruling in 2013, a sender of a text could be held liable in a crash and not just the driver who caused the crash. In a lawsuit also involving a motorcycle and a teen driver, it was determined that the teen driver had received numerous texts from his friend, suggesting the friend would have known the teen driver was engaged in driving. Although the lawsuit was settled, the court record confirmed that the two friends were texting each other all day. The court found no legal basis to hold the sender of a text responsible for a crash and dismissed the case against the sender. The court, however, held the ruling suggesting that the sender could be held liable for texting a driver before a crash if they knew the person was driving or believed the person would view the text while driving.

The legal arguments presented in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania lawsuits suggest that senders of texts need to be responsible for their actions if they know the person that is receiving the text is driving. Although it sounds a bit ridiculous, is it really? The New Jersey courts and now the Pennsylvania courts don’t think so and continue to listen to legal arguments suggesting this possibility. Young Drivers of Canada suggests that all drivers let their family and friends know when they will be driving to avoid any potential legal ramifications! It’s simple, put away the phone when you are driving!