Everyone has warned us against it –public service announcements, car insurance ads, Oprah. There are even laws against it. But now, liability may extend beyond the driver. A New Jersey court has just decided that someone who sends a text message to another person can be held liable for a texting-related accident so long as the sender was aware that the message’s recipient was behind the wheel. The magic words for having the long arms of the law reach through the phone to the sender: the sender must have knowledge that the receiver is actually driving.
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.
The court’s opinion is based on an earlier texting while driving case where a teenager crossed the center line of the road he was on and severely injured a couple on a motorcycle. The couple settled with the driver who hit them, then went after the girl who sent the driver the message, saying that she knew she was texting someone who was driving and thus knew she was engaging in distracting and unsafe behavior.
Thinking of firing off a text a driver? Be aware. Or better yet, just don’t do it.