If a texting driver is involved an accident, is the person who sent them that text responsible? The answer may surprise you.
Texting while driving is deadly — period. But what about the person who sent the text to which the driver is replying? Do they share responsibility with the driver? According to a New Jersey appellate court, yes: the initiating texter should share responsibility for an accident in some cases.
The bellwether case involved Linda and David Kubert, who each lost a leg in a collision with Kyle Best in 2009. At that time, the state’s laws did not have criminal penalties for texting while driving. The Kuberts sued both Best and his texting partner, Shannon Colonna, stating that she shared responsibility for the wreck. At trial, the Kuberts’ claim against Colonna was dismissed, but the decision was later appealed.
On appeal, the court upheld the initial decision to dismiss the case against the young woman because the plaintiffs had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that she knew Best was driving and texting at the time of the accident. However, they did find that the plaintiff’s argument held merit. They agreed that an individual sending texts has a duty to refrain from sending them to someone he or she knows to be behind the wheel.
The ramifications of this decision could be quite interesting, even as a civil (and not criminal) case. Prosecutors may one day call upon this decision to charge the sender of a text as an accessory to reckless driving. Make sure you set your phone aside while driving, or while speaking with someone who is. Your conversation is not worth the possible consequences of texting and driving.