Texting while driving is a dangerous habit. Thirty-eight states have passed laws banning the practice altogether, while other states restrict it for younger drivers. If a driver has an accident while texting, he or she is almost certainly liable for the resulting damages. But what about the person who SENT the message to the driver?
An action before a New Jersey judge this month has the potential to take responsibility for texting-related accidents one step further: it could set legal precedent for holding the senders of text messages read by drivers liable for damages in the case of accidents.
Morristown, New Jersey attorney Skippy Weinstein believes that Shannon Colonna is partly responsible for injuries suffered by his clients after they were sideswiped by Kyle Best. Colonna wasn’t in the car during the 2009 accident, which resulted in both David and Linda Kuber losing their legs. She was texting with Best when he hit the Kubers.
The question of Colonna’s responsibility for the accident boils down to an issue of aiding and abetting. In the same way a driver is liable for a bank robbery even though he never left the vehicle, Colonna may be responsible in part for the crash if the circumstances of her involvement meet criteria for secondary liability.
Weinstein believes it clearly does. “She was not physically in the vehicle but she was electronically present,” he said in an interview with MSNBC . “She and he were assisting each other in violation of the law.”
The American Law Institute has established a three-pronged test to determine vicarious liability. It says that in order to be liable, a secondary party like Colonna must: (1) assist a party who is doing a wrongful act; (2) be generally aware of his or her role in the illegal act; and (3) substantially assist in the principal violation.
It is an interesting question and carries with it the potential for far reaching consequences. A verdict in the matter is expected by the end of May.
If you have sustained injury in an automobile accident with a texting driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact tDavid Van Sant, an Alpharetta personal injury attorney who represents claimants who suffer automobile accident injuries.