If I Text a Driver, Am I Liable?
a quick, “Pick up the dry cleaning please. Thx.” A friend is running late to the movie, so we text, “Where r u? Previews already started!” Or the parent of a teenager might text a friendly, “Curfew is 11. Don’t b late,” reminder may be warranted a few minutes after they leave for the evening.
But what happens if the person you text is in a car accident shortly after the message was sent? What if it was discovered that he or she was reading your message specifically? Is the fault 100 percent on the driver for picking up the cellphone in the first place? Or do you share in the liability because you texted him or her? What if you knew he or she was driving at the time?
This issue is still hotly debated, particularly among our neighbors across the Hudson River. A New Jersey court said in August that texting a driver may make you responsible for a crash; judges, in fact, compared the action to causing an in-car distraction.
So the real question is, “Is it illegal to text someone who is driving?” The answer currently is no. The criminal laws on this issue haven’t changed in New Jersey, New York, or elsewhere.
But the New Jersey judges cited in a recent CNN article appear to be saying that texting someone who is driving could make you liable to a civil lawsuit, based on existing laws against distracting a driver.
It is possible that a new law could come to fruition that would make knowingly texting a driver illegal. States across the U.S. including our home state of New York have been cracking down on texting and driving, in some instances treating those caught as if they were found to be drinking and driving.
The most debated issue regarding such a law speaking now as an experienced Brooklyn car accident injury attorney would be proving that the sender knew the recipient was driving.
As technology continues to develop, we will see laws surrounding car accidents and vehicle operation evolve as well. Keeping up with new issues and distractions puts police officers, lawmakers, and drivers in a difficult place, often leading to unprecedented situations.
Do you think such a law should exist in New York? Elsewhere? The Brooklyn personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of David J. Hernandez & Associates would appreciate hearing your voice on the matter.