If you live in Indiana you should know texting while driving was made illegal as of July 2010. We even wrote an e-newsletter all about the topic and the specific language in the law. You should also know that if you caused an accident while texting, you could be liable for damages. However, what about the person who's texting you? Can they also be held liable?
This week, a New Jersey judge ruled a teenager who texted her boyfriend could not be held responsible for an accident he caused while reading the text message that she sent.
David and Linda Kuber lost parts of their legs during a 2009 crash in New Jersey, after 19-year-old Kyle Best sideswiped their car when driving while texting. However, Kyle wasn't typing or sending a text. He was reading a text message sent from his girlfriend, Shannon Colonna. Shannon knew Kyle was on his way home from work and driving. Kuber's attorney is saying, "She wasn't physically in the car, she was electronically present. She and he were assisting each other in a violation of the law."
There's no precedent for a lot of legal areas in the Digital Age.
The Kuber's attorney is using the word "assisting" when making his argument; similar to aiding and abetting. For example, the man who knowingly holds the door open during a bank robbery is just as likely to be convicted of bank robbery as the safe cracker.
Judge David Rand said, "Drivers are bombarded with all forms of distractions. I find that there was no aiding, abetting here in the legal sense. I find it is unreasonable to impose a duty upon the defendant in this case under these facts. Were I to extend this duty, in my judgment, any form of distraction could potentially serve as basis of a liability case."
David and Linda Kuber plan to appeal the decision once the lawsuit against the driver has been decided.
This may not be the end of the issue. The Court of Appeals could overturn the decision of the trial court. Other states' courts could also come to a different conclusion. What do you think about holding drivers who text while driving responsible for the injuries they cause to others? What about the sender of the text message?