Texting a Driver and Accident Liability

Car Accident 3Every New Jersey driver knows (or should know) that it is illegal to text and drive in the Garden State. In fact, the failure to adhere to this law could result in a fine of $100. A 2013 case out of Morris County, NJ may change things for people who are texting a driver of a vehicle.

While sending a text message from the comfort of your own home to family or friends may seem innocuous at first, if the recipient is operating a motor vehicle, you could find yourself – and the driver – in a bit of a wreck. The court in Kubert v. Best (2013) tackled an issue not yet addressed by the law against texting and driving – could the remote sender of a text message be liable to other drivers injured in a motor vehicle accident because the recipient of the text message was distracted by it while he or she was driving?

This court’s answer was a “yes and no” type of response we often see from the courts. Remote senders of text messages could in fact be held civilly liable, but only if the sender knew or had reason to know that the recipient would look at the message while driving, thereby making him distracted from the proper operation of the vehicle. The analysis here is similar to one made when a motor vehicle accident is proximately caused by the distracting behavior of a passenger in the car.

What Does it Mean to be “Electronically Present” in a Motor Vehicle Accident?

Looking forward, text messaging fanatics will likely wonder, Where does this leave me? The responsibility owed is one to the drivers of the open roads. If sufficient evidence is presented that shows the sender knew the recipient was driving and would likely open any text messages sent to him or her, that makes the sender of the text message “electronically present” with the driver on the road and opens one up to civil liability.

It is likely that this issue will be litigated and appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey. But until that point in time, senders of messages should be cautious and cognizant of any texting that they may do with drivers. If you have any suspicion that the recipient of your text message may open your message while on the road, you may want to think twice.

Contact the NJ DWI & Traffic Attorneys at Villani & DeLuca

If you have been issued a summons for a New Jersey traffic violation, such as reckless driving, speeding or even something as serious as drunk driving, you should find out your legal options.  Contact the DWI and traffic law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, located in both Ocean and Monmouth Counties, today by calling (732) 965-3350.