Text Someone if you Know He’s Driving? You Could Be Liable

September 9, 2013

Don’t Text Someone When You Know He Is Driving – It Could Get You Sued


Texting Someone Else While DrivingImagine this. You have plans for the evening and are running a bit late leaving work, so you text your friend “I’m heading over now.” You get in the car, and start driving towards your house. Your friend realizes he forgot to pick up chips, so he texts you, “get some chips?” You hear your phone beep, pick up the phone and look at it. You text him back “sure.”

Unfortunately, as you type your text, you swerve a bit to the right, and sideswipe another car, causing a serious car accident.

You, as the driver, are going to be liable for that car accident. No doubt about it. But according to New Jersey, your friend might be liable too. Why? Because he knew you were driving and he texted you anyway.

The New Jersey Lawsuit from the Case

In the case, involving two teenagers, a young man was driving when he collided with a motorcycle. Right before the accident he was texting. This included a text he received from his friend, a 17 year old woman. The two people on the motorcycle were injured quite badly.

Not surprisingly, the victims sued the young man. But more surprisingly, they sued the girl as well. They said that she shared responsibility because she texted the young man while he was driving.

In the end, the court ruled that the young woman had no particular reason to know that the man was driving, and as a result, was not in any way responsible for the car accident. But, the court specifically noted that if someone has reason to know that another person is driving, and sends a text, that person might be legally responsible if an accident occurs.

What Does This Mean?

Right now, what this decision means is, if you know someone is driving, or suspect someone is driving, don’t send that person a text. You also shouldn’t send a text if you believe the person might be doing anything from which distracting him could be dangerous. For example, operating heavy construction equipment as part of his job.  If you do send a text under these circumstances, and an accident occurs, the person or people who are hurt will most likely sue you in New Jersey. They might sue you in other states too, since New Jersey has set this legal precedent.

In Philadelphia? Be Careful

There is a lot of crossover between New Jersey and Philadelphia traffic. It would be very easy for someone at home in Philadelphia to text a spouse or friend who is driving through New Jersey. Keep the New Jersey case in mind to avoid getting yourself sued.

If Someone Sues You Will He Win?

New Jersey has come up with what I would call a novel theory of law here.  So the question is, the next time someone sues the texter in addition to the driver, will they win? That is hard to say at this point. But being sued is never fun.

What Should You Do?

Leaving the potential lawsuits aside, it is best not to send someone a text when you know he is driving anyway. While the person driving should have the common sense not to look at the text until later, some people just choose to be irresponsible. Imagine how terrible you would feel if someone got in an accident because you texted “grab some chips?”

Injured in a Car Accident?

If you are injured in a car accident because someone is texting and driving, please contact the Philadelphia car accident attorneys of Lowenthal & Abrams. We will discuss your case with you for free. If we take your case, there is no fee unless you are compensated for your injuries.



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