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New Yorkers to be held liable for sending texts while stationary?

We have previously written about how dangerous it is for motorists to read, type and send texts while they are driving. In fact, distracted driving is now the primary cause of car accidents in the United States. It is understandable that lawmakers are cracking down on texting while driving specifically and distracted driving behaviors generally. But should they be cracking down on those texters who send messages to drivers behind the wheel? There is nothing illegal about that, right?

In New York currently, an individual cannot generally be punished for sending a text to a motorist if that texter is not behind the wheel himself or herself. However, other states are embracing a different approach. This new approach could eventually compel New York legislators or judges to treat stationary texters as personally liable for distracted driving accidents that occur when their texts are being read or responded to.

Recently, an appeals court in New Jersey held that an individual sending a text to a motorist could in fact be held liable for harm done in a distracted driving crash caused by the motorist reading or responding to his or her text. However, the New Jersey court did insist that the individual sending the text must know or have special reason to know that the motorist would read the text being sent while he or she was driving.

Though no New York courts have yet joined the New Jersey appeals court in enforcing this rationale, judges and legislators certainly could in due time. Distracted driving is such a hazardous choice that those who engage in it from either end of the texting divide may soon be held liable for it.

Source: Insurance Journal, “Threat of Civil Liabilities for Text Senders in Crash Cases,” Sep. 6, 2013

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