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Text Originators and Recipients May Be Held Responsible for Crashes with Distracted Drivers

Texting and driving has grown to epidemic proportions in the US. New studies have pointed out that it’s actually more dangerous to text while driving than it is to drive drunk – your reaction times are that diminished. Most states have approached this problem by issuing laws that ban texting and driving in just about all capacities, but it continues to be an enormous issue. Now, there may be a new deterrent to ensure that everyone takes texting while driving seriously. The person on the other end of the text might be held liable for crashes that involve texting and driving.

What’s Going On?

Texting and driving is responsible for over 300,000 auto accidents each and every year across the United States. Many of those are fatal for the driver or someone they hit. Many others do not result in fatalities, but are incredibly devastating to those involved.

Despite laws on the books banning texting while behind the wheel, the number of accidents doesn’t seem to be declining. Some lawmakers and judges are looking for a way to make drivers and others take the situation more seriously.

There are currently several lawsuits in progress in which the person texting the driver is being held liable for the auto accident, at least in part. Of course, they can only be held liable if they knew the person they were texting was driving, and that he or she would check their messages. That might seem like a tough thing to prove, but in Pennsylvania, at least, one such case has already been handled. The judge in that case ruled that two people texting a driver responsible for hitting and killing a motorcycle rider were also at least partially responsible for the death and could be included in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by the motorcycle rider’s family.

So, how might such a situation work? What should people on both sides of the text message know? First off, if you’re a driver, you need to ensure that your phone is on silent, or that you’re able to ignore incoming messages. Some smartphones now come with a driving mode that will automatically respond to text messages with a response stating that you’re driving and will reply when possible.

If you’re texting someone and they inform you that they’re driving, immediately discontinue the conversation. Even if they don’t inform you that they’re driving, if you know someone is on the road, don’t text them at all. Whatever it is can wait until they reach their destination.

If you do text them knowing that they are behind the wheel, it is very possible that you’ll be held at least partially responsible for the results of any accident in which they’re involved.

“It’s a high bar but if you have evidence the remote texter knew the recipient was driving and knew they would check messages, you could have a basis for personal liability,” explained a personal injury attorney attached to the case in Pennsylvania.

Of course, the situation has garnered a lot of criticism and sparked outrage amongst some people. These individuals claim that holding remote texters (the person on the other side of the message) responsible for a driver’s actions is wrong, and that it is solely the decision of the driver to respond to texts that results in an accident. However, there is precedent. Bars and even individual bartenders and wait staff have been held partially responsible for accidents involving drunk driving. Encouraging someone to reply via text while driving is no different.