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Who is Liable for a Traffic Accident: The Texter or the Textee?

Some interesting news has come out of New Jersey regarding liability in traffic accidents. According to CNN, the New Jersey state Appeals Court heard arguments from a couple who were badly injured in a truck-motorcycle crash. In 2009, an 18-year-old’s truck crossed the center line and hit the couple riding their motorcycle. The couple settled with the driver and then sued his girlfriend, who had texted him just before the accident.
The court did not find the girlfriend liable in this case; however the reason she was cleared of liability was because she did not know her boyfriend was driving at the time. In the process of the appeal, the jury accepted and agreed that had she known the young man was driving, she would have shared some responsibility for the accident.
It’s an interesting argument and will be one to follow as states beef up driving while texting laws. For instance, in Maryland and D.C., all drivers are prohibited from texting and using handheld cell phones. Novice drivers may not use cell phones of any kind, including hands free devices. Virginia disallows texting from all drivers, but only drivers under the age of 18 and school bus drivers are prohibited from handheld cell phone use.
Criminal laws have yet to change in New Jersey or elsewhere; however the implication is that knowingly sending texts to someone who is driving could potentially open one to a civil suit if an accident occurs.
Not everyone is buying it. Some argue it is the choice of the driver to participate in the call or not. Others suggest it would be difficult to prove whether or not someone knew the recipient of his or her text was driving. Regardless, it opens an interesting avenue for the liability debate.
If you have been injured in a traffic accident, we’d like to help you. We will determine the best course of action to ensure responsibile parties are held liable and you are awarded fully. Contact us today with your questions.

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