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Texting and Liability this Holiday Season

As the weather gets colder and the holiday season approaches, proper phone etiquette while on the road can help everyone to arrive at their destination in one piece, while helping to achieve a low stress driving experience that ensures safe driving conditions for all. Please make a conscious effort to send text messages to your loved ones prior to putting your key into the ignition. By agreeing to put the cell phone down while driving this holiday season you can help to make the roadways less congested, with better traffic flow, and far less deadly. With legislation, education, and laws on the books, most of us know that drinking and driving is a lethal mix, yet too many Americans are quick to write-off the dangers of texting while driving. The Philadelphia based law firm of Rosenbaum and Associates with offices in New Jersey, and Western Pennsylvania, understands first hand the perils that driving and operating a cell phone can cause. For over 25 years our highly experienced personal injury attorneys work on behalf of seriously injured pedestrians and plaintiffs to secure the best representation for our clients.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration study found that texting while driving is the equivalent of driving after having four beers. Every month some 171.3 billion-text messages are sent in the United States alone, often with fatal consequences. No matter how quick you believe you are, texting requires cognitive, visual, and manual attention that is directly siphoned from your driving skills. Furthermore, if you would like to cut down on seasonal traffic decrease your instances of multi-tasking, by staying alert and not driving distracted you lessen the chance of needing to overcompensate for lost mileage. According to the Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts, nearly 25 percent of all car accidents are caused by texting and driving. The Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York’s 2013 study found that 300,000 teens are injured and more than 3,000 die each year as a result of sending a text message while behind the wheel. Approximately 11 teens loose their life everyday because of texting and driving, overtaking drunk driving as the leading cause of death for America’s teenagers. This holiday season let us slow down, put the phone down, and multi-task less while driving, in order to get where we need to be safely.

Can those who send a Text Message be held Liable for a Crash?

A New Jersey, Appeals Court, tackled the question of, whether or not you can be held legally liable for sending a text message to a driver prior to the driver being involved in a car crash. The case involves a September 21, 2009 multi-vehicle car crash in Mine Hill Township, New Jersey. At approximately 5:45 p.m. the then 19-year-old teen driver, Kyle Best sent and received text messages from friends and family that evening while driving. Prior to a car accident Best received a text message from his girlfriend, when his pick-up truck then drifted across the center line and hit a couple who were on their motorcycle, the Kubert’s. The couple both lost their left legs as a result of the crash. What makes this case scholarly remarkable is that the Kupert’s settled their case with the driver, who admitted in municipal court to driving while texting, and then they chose to sue the defendant’s 17-year-old girlfriend under the legal doctrine of civil liability. The Kupert’s attorney claimed that Shannon Colonna was “electronically present” at the time of the crash and that by sending a text messages to the driver, she was liable for distracting the driver at the time of the accident. While the Superior Court judge concluded that the remote texter could not be held liable, this past August a state appeals court panel agreed in part and reversed in part the lower court’s ruling.

The New Jersey Appeals Court agreed that Shannon Colonna, in the current set of circumstances could not be held liable and that a Superior Court judge was correct in dismissing the lawsuit against Colonna for “aiding and abetting”. The court also held that “a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.” Further holding “that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.” It is a very narrowly tailored set of circumstances, carved out by the New Jersey appellate court, where a person knowingly texts a driver that they are reasonably certain that the driver would read the text while driving, can they then be held liable for the actions of the driver. Texting has become a primary way of communicating, this holiday season let’s use technology wisely.

If you would like more information regarding car accidents and to determine whether you have grounds for a case, please contact us online or call 1 800 7 LEGAL 7 for a Free Case Evaluation.

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