Texting while driving is against the law, this is not a newsflash. What is a newsflash is the fact the courts are looking into holding both parties to the conversation accountable if the texting results in a crash. That means Joe Schmoe, sitting on his couch texting sweet messages to his girlfriend while she drives home from work could be just as guilty as his girlfriend if she gets into a crash.
How realistic is it for courts to hold the text message sender accountable for a car crash?
Much to the dismay of those who oppose such measures, holding the texting participant responsible for a crash looks pretty realistic.
Two court decisions have already considered this issue and both have outlined how it could work. Essentially, it would involve establishing that the people participating in the conversation were well aware of the fact that the person they were texting was driving while engaging in the texting conversation.
What did these cases find?
The first case, out of New Jersey, was heard in 2012. This case involved a texting and driving accident that resulted in the paralysis of an occupant in the vehicle struck by the texting driver. The paralyzed victim argued that the person sending the driver the text messages should also be held liable. In that case, the courts held in favor of the defendant, finding the person sending the text was not liable.
However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel for those in similar situations. On appeal the court found that those sending text messages to a driver could be held liable if they “knew, or had reason to know, the recipient was driving”.
A more recent case, out of Pennsylvania, is considering this same issue. In this case, a woman was sending text messages to two men while driving. She failed to notice a motorcycle in front of her. She struck the motorcycle and dragged the motorcycle rider for 100 feet. He suffered severe injuries from this accident, ultimately leading to his death.
The motorcycle rider’s estate is suing both the driver and the men she engaged in texting conversations with while driving. The texting participants attempted to have their names removed from the lawsuit, to no avail. The judge stated that if the estate can prove that the message writer were aware that the recipient was driving and continued to engage in the conversation, they may be held liable for the accident.
How can this help victims of distracted driving accidents?
Those who are injured in a distracted driving accident are generally eligible for remedies through a civil suit. These cases establish some groundwork for how the victims can hold both texting parties responsible for their roles in the accident. This can serve two purposes. First, it can punish those who violated the law and second it can help deter others from making the same mistake.