If you text and drive, do not — it is against the law. If you text someone you know is driving, do not — you just may be held responsible if an accident occurs because the driver is distracted by your text.
In 2009, 18-year-old Kyle Best got off work and texted his then-girlfriend, 17-year-old Shannon Colonna, as he drove home. During the text conversation that followed, Mr. Best became distracted, and his car drifted into an oncoming lane occupied by David and Linda Kubert on their touring motorcycle. The resulting accident maimed and almost killed Mr. and Mrs. Kubert.
In the ensuing lawsuit, Mr. Best settled with the couple. Also named as a defendant was Ms. Colonna, on the following grounds:
Telephone records revealed Ms. Colonna and Mr. Best had been texting until just moments before the accident.
The claim notes Ms. Colonna aided and abetted Best’s unlawful texting while he was driving, and that she had an independent duty to avoid texting to a person who was driving a motor vehicle.
The trial court found Ms. Colonna did not have a legal duty not to text Mr. Best. On appeal, the Superior Court, appellate division court affirmed the facts found by the trial court, but created a new standard of responsibility for citizens of New Jersey when it wrote:
We hold that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by
texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.
Ms. Colonna was not held responsible, as it was not proven she knew the whereabouts of Mr. Best. In the future, whether a remote texter knows the recipient of the text is driving is bound to be important in apportioning damages for distracted driving accidents.
Do not text and drive, and think twice about texting someone who could be driving. If injured by the texting of others, obtain experienced legal advice.