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Car Wrecks: Could You Be Liable For Sending A Text To A Driver?

 It’s no secret that texting while driving is dangerous.

We’ve probably all seen the driver who can’t stay in his lane or who is driving dangerously slow all so the driver can text while driving.

But it’s dangerous.  It’s so dangerous that study after study finds that it’s significantly more dangerous than even driving while intoxicated. (And heaven knows we see too many clients injured in wrecks caused by texting and driving.)

Thus, we can all understand (I hope) that if someone is texting while driving and causes a wreck, then the law ought to hold that person accountable for the harms the person causes others.

But what about the person who sends a text to someone that person knows is driving?  Should the person sending a text to a known driver be potentially liable if the driver is in a wreck while reading or responding to the text?

That’s now a possibility in New Jersey.  Earlier this month, a state appellate court ruled that third-party texters could bear responsibility in texting-related car wrecks.  In reaching the opinion, the court wrote, “when a texter knows or has special reason to know that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, the texter has a duty to users of the public road to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time.”  However, the Court specifically said that they are not holding that someone who texts to a person driving is liable for that person’s negligent actions.

Could this happen in Texas?

It’s doubtful.  Our legislature and court systems are extremely conservative, and I have a hard time believing that they would reach the same conclusion.

But we should still heed the warning.  If you know a friend or family member is driving, don’t text them.  Wait until they’re somewhere safe to read your message.


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