Liability For Texting While Driving Even If Not Driving

The battle to educate people on the dangers of distracted driving and the steadily increasing penalties for those convicted of texting while driving have been well documented. Not quite as well documented is the potential liability of the “remote” individual on the other end of the text.

On Tuesday, the NJ Appeals Court ruled that “a remote texter can be held liable to third parties for injuries caused when the distracted driver has an accident.” In other words, if you’re texting with a person while they are driving, and that person injures another or damages property, you could be help responsible for those injuries and damages.

The particular case in question involved a 2009 accident where teenager Kyle Best drove his car into a motorcycle and injuring the man and woman rider to the extent that both lost a leg. Mr. Best was found to be texting at the time of the accident.

At the time of the accident, Mr. Best was texting with 17 year old Shannon Colonna. In examining Ms. Colonna’s potential liability, the court set forth that “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.”

Ultimately in this case, there was insufficient proof that Ms. Colonna knew Mr. Best was driving at the time of the texting. Nevertheless, NJ sets an interesting precedent going forward–engage in texting with someone you know to be driving and risk liability as if you were actually driving the car yourself.

Submitted by Scott Feifer