In a recent civil case in New Jersey, the court recognized the argument that the person sending the texts, as well as the driver receiving/answering them, could be responsible if the distraction causes an accident.
In that case, a boyfriend and girlfriend were texting back and forth when his car veered and hit a couple on their motorcycle. They were seriously injured and sued both the boyfriend, who was driving, and his girlfriend, who was texting him from elsewhere. She was not held responsible in the end, with the key being that she didn’t seem to know he was driving. The court implied, however, that if you text someone who you know is driving, you could very well be held responsible.
Although this case was out of New Jersey, it’s something we could see here in Illinois in the near future. Texting and driving is going to become illegal in Illinois starting on January 1, 2014, and with that will come more civil lawsuits based on texting and driving. There’s no criminal law against texting someone who you know is driving, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be sued in civil court for being at fault or causing an accident. Even if you weren’t in the car.
It might seem like a stretch, but it’s just an extension of the idea that if you are physically in the car and distracting the driver, a resulting accident could be your fault. In any case, plaintiffs generally sue more than one person; they sue everyone who might be responsible. So I’m sure it will happen. It will be interesting to see how the Illinois courts handle this argument. The girl in the case had sent over 60 texts and basically said that texting is what she does and that she had no idea if he was driving or not. That’s a pretty good defense.
Some say that it’s solely the driver’s responsibility, and that if their phone rings, or they get a text, or whatever, they are responsible for ignoring it until they are no longer driving. I see both sides, but the bottom line is that these lawsuits might catch on, so if you are injured in a texting and driving situation, there may be more than one defendant. And as a texter, it would be smart to be extra cautious, regardless of whether you’re behind the wheel.
No matter what your opinion is on this issue, you have to admit the video is absolutely hilarious.
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