Can You Be Liable For Sending A Text Message To Someone Driving?

In New Jersey, a couple who were both severely injured when a distracted driver struck their motorcycle. Kyle Best, the driver, was allegedly using his elbows to steer so he could respond to a friend’s text.

The couple is suing not only Kyle but his girlfriend whom they allege knew that Kyle was driving yet still exchanged text messages with him.

The couple’s lawyer argues that Kyle’s girlfriend was “electronically present” for the accident and “aided and abetted” Kyle’s illegal texting messaging. The lawyer also points to the fact that the couple had “ping ponged” 62 text messages that day. Driving and texting is illegal in New Jersey.

While I think this is a creative argument, I do not believe that a text sender should be a liable for the negligent behavior of the recipient driver. The sender was not directly involved in the accident and the driver needs to be held accountable for his actions. The illegal act was solely the recipient’s conduct, not the senders.

A text message sender should reasonably be allowed to assume that the recipient will only read and respond to a text message when it is safe and legal to do so.

What do you think?

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Roger Ebett
    June 5, 2012 2:47 am

    I agree. The person sending a text message to a driver may or may not know

    that their friend is driving. The driver is 100% responsible for his or her actions.

    Simple. Pull your car over safely, and text away. I mean you dont start

    getting naked with your partner while driving do you ? Of course not, you

    drive safely home or to a hotel, and then you do that.

    Reply
    • Roger,

      Thanks for your feedback. It also dawned on me that there are many apps that allow a text to be converted to voice and heard (as opposed read) while driving. Another reason to refrain from making a text sender liable for the negligence of its recipient.

      Matthew Weiss

      Reply

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