According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 1,000 injured in accidents involving distracted drivers every day in the U.S. Like many states, New York has strict laws about using handheld devices while driving, but people keep sending and reading texts when they should have their eyes on the road.
When a distracted driver crashes into you and causes serious injuries, you can sue them for compensation not covered by your auto insurance. You may also be able to sue the person who was texting them at the time of the accident.
Although state law does not address the liability of so-called “remote texters,” there is precedent for holding them accountable when they inadvertently contribute to a serious car accident.
In this 2013 case, the Superior Court of New Jersey reviewed a case involving a collision between a motorcycle and a car. The car’s driver was distracted by a message sent by a party who became a co-defendant when the injured cyclist and his passenger sued them both.
The court ruled that an individual sending a text has a duty not to message someone when they know that the person is driving and will read their message while on the road. In this case, it found that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the plaintiff’s contention that the texter knew or had reason to know that the defendant was driving at the time. However, the implication of the case is that theoretically, at least, a remote texter could be held liable when their messages lead to an accident.
More recently, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas found that if a texter had reason to believe that the recipient would read their message while driving, then they could be held liable if an accident occurred.
In this particular case, a female driver received a text from her boyfriend and, while reading it, struck and killed a motorcyclist. The family of the deceased sued the boyfriend in addition to the driver. While the court sentenced the driver to 60 days in jail in addition to other penalties, it dismissed the case against the boyfriend. Like Kubert v. Best, it found that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove that he knew his girlfriend was driving when he texted her.
Although both cases absolved the remote texters of any liability, there seems to be a general consensus that knowingly texting a driver can potentially raise liability issues, provided that knowledge can be proven. If you are injured under similar circumstances, then your New York personal injury attorney can advise you on the feasibility of filing a claim against the remote texter as well.