New Jersey Court Rules You Can Be Liable For Sending A Text Message To Someone You Know Is Driving September 6, 2013
By Mike Malvey, Esq.
Each year the statistics for the number of motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers continues to rise. Whether drivers are using hand held devices, sending or reading text messages, or searching social media networks while driving, the distractions caused by having a mobile device in the car have been responsible for more and more injuries and fatalities on the roadways with each passing year.
Most people knew that a driver who causes an auto accident because they were using a cell phone or sending a text message at the time will be held responsible for any injuries or damages that they cause due to their distracted driving. However, in a new opinion, the Superior Court in New Jersey has recently decided that in addition to holding a driver responsible for the accident that was caused when they were sending and receiving text messages, the actual sender of a text message can be held responsible for the auto accident as well even if they were not in the vehicle.
In the case of Kubert v. Best, et al., published on August 27, 2013, the New Jersey Superior Court considered a situation where a pick-up truck driver crossed over the center line on a two-way road and struck an oncoming motorcycle, causing the two passengers to suffer serious injuries including leg amputations. Evidence obtained during the case revealed that the driver of the pick-up truck had been exchanging a series of text messages with his girlfriend in the moments leading up to the accident. The last text message was sent to the pick-up driver just 15 seconds before a 911 call was made, indicating that the crash occurred at the very moment that the pick-up truck driver was sending his last text message.
The two motorcycle operators who were injured filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the pick-up truck driver and his girlfriend who was sending text messages from a remote location. In considering whether to allow the claims against the girlfriend who was not in the pick-up truck were valid, the trial court initially dismissed these claims against her concluding that there was not enough evidence that she had any involvement in the cause of the accident.
Although on appeal, the Superior Court did not allow the claims against the girlfriend to go forward to trial, the court concluded 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.” (Kubert at p.4).
Although in this case the person who was sending text messages outside of the vehicle was not found responsible, this decision may result in future personal injury lawsuits where the sender of a text message who knows that the recipient will view it while driving can be held responsible if reading the text message results in an accident.
This case represents yet another example of the law expanding to account for the new distractions that are caused by the advances in modern technology. Now, not only will drivers be held responsible for distracted driving, but people who have reason to know that they are causing drivers to not pay attention to the road can also be held at fault as well.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident and wish to discuss your legal rights, please contact Galfand Berger today. The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger are constantly reviewing new cases including the above to make sure that all potential responsible parties are held accountable for your injuries and damages. Please call toll free at 800-222-8792 or contact us online.
Our law offices are located in Philadelphia, Reading and Bethlehem, PA, serving clients throughout Southeast Pennsylvania, including the Harrisburg and Allentown regions, and Southern New Jersey.