Distracted driving is a common problem, particularly when distracted by cell phone calls while driving. But is the driver always at fault? Remote texter liability is a theory that assesses whether someone other than the driver texts the driver and should be held responsible for an accident.
Distracted driving poses dangers
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that distracted driving is responsible for thousands of car accidents each year. Distracted driving is any activity that distracts from the road, such as eating, adjusting the radio, adjusting the thermostat, reading or talking to other passengers. Distracted driving includes eating, changing the radio, setting the thermostat, reading, talking with other passengers, texting and talking on a cellphone while driving.
Many states have passed new laws to reduce distracted driving. Some laws prohibit drivers from using their phones while driving. Some laws prohibit hands-free phone use. Others prohibit texting while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving has resulted in a drop of 6.7 percent in automobile accidents and deaths.
Driving while using a cellphone is a primary offense in many states. A law enforcement officer may stop the driver because of this. Although a citation for this offense is typically non-monetary, it is determined by state law. The citation can be increased if there are additional offenses. In some jurisdictions, individuals who are distracted while driving can face felony charges. The law regarding remote texter liability was not in place at the time of publication. But, liability could still arise based on state common law or interpretations of existing laws
Kubert v. Best
Kubert v. Best & Colonna is the most well-known case involving remote texter liability. It was decided by New Jersey’s Superior Court in 2013. This case concerned an accident in which plaintiff Kubert and a passenger riding on a motorcycle were struck by a vehicle driven to Best. Best was distracted when he received a message from co-defendant Colonna. The accident caused serious injuries including the amputations of both plaintiffs’ legs. Plaintiffs who were injured sued both the driver and the sender of the message.
The appellate court concluded that text messages sent to someone knowing they are driving or who knows the recipient will read the message while driving is a violation of the person’s duty. The court ruled that the remote texter was not responsible in this particular case. There was no evidence that the texter knew or ought to have known that the recipient was driving. It was also unclear if the texter encouraged the driver texting while driving. Furthermore, there was no special relationship between the defendants that would suggest that the texter could control the driver’s behavior. The court ruled that sending a message does not automatically encourage the recipient to read it and to respond. The court ruled that the driver was responsible for the recipient’s decision to respond to the messages.
The Case and its Implications
The court did not find the remote texter responsible for the accident. However, it does suggest that remote texting could lead to a person being held liable. New Jersey’s court considered the case from many angles and concluded that remote texters could be held liable if they had substantial control over the recipient. To be considered liable under the state’s ruling, remote texters must be aware that the driver is driving at the time the message is sent. If the driver is distracted by the text, the distracted driver will be forced to immediately respond, even if it means others are in danger.
A personal injury lawyer may be able to assist victims of an accident that was caused by a distracted driver. A personal injury lawyer can help you determine who should be named as defendants in any potential lawsuit. The lawyer can explain all options to the victim, as well as whether there have been any cases regarding remote texter liability.