Can You Be Sued For Texting Someone Who’s Driving?

The case Kubert v. Best, 2013 WL 4512313 (N.J. Super. App. Div. Aug. 27, 2013) has garnered a good deal of national controversy recently. In its opinion, the New Jersey Appellate Court suggested that an individual who text messages a driver, whom he or she knows is currently on the road, could be found liable in the event of a car accident. This is the first time that a court has openly discussed extending liability this far, although legislation aimed at curtailing this sort of activity has already been discussed. Within the legal community, opposing views have formed about whether imposing this new liability would be a positive step or not.

In favor of extending liability to texters:

  • Public policy demands greater deterrents to texting while driving: Thousands of people are seriously injured or killed every year in the United States due to drivers distracted by their phone conversations. Extending liability to the person sending the text would add an extra layer of deterrent. Not only would a driver be cautious about responding to a text, but those inclined to send a text to someone driving might get second thoughts about doing so. Even if not all texters are deterred by the thought of a lawsuit, some will be, and lives will be saved due to fewer accidents.

  • Other forms of this liability already exist: Adding this liability is hardly an unprecedented step. Under existing laws, if you are a passenger in a car and intentionally distract the driver, you can be held liable if an accident results. The only new step being proposed is to extend that same liability to your behavior outside of the car itself. The principle of law remains the same – those who intentionally distract someone they know is driving can be found partially responsible if an accident is caused.

Until the courts have more decisively addressed the issue, the best advice from any perspective is simple: Avoid texting or calling someone who you know is currently on the road.

Joel L. Levine Joel L. Levine
Levine And Wiss, PLLC 
Scott Wiss Scott L. Wiss
Levine And Wiss, PLLC 
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