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Could you be liable if you text a driver who gets in an accident?

By Jonathan Petramala, Weekend Evening Anchor/Reporter, jonathan.petramala@krdo.com
Published On: Sep 18 2013 10:55:07 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 18 2013 11:39:42 PM CDT

Lawyers are looking into possibly new civil liabilities for texting and driving.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

You probably know you can get into trouble for texting and driving, but a recent court decision says you could also be responsible for texting a driver who gets into a crash, even if you are just sitting on your couch.

“If you’re not in that vehicle but you’re the one sending the text, under certain circumstances you could be responsible for the collision,” said attorney David McDivitt.

McDivitt has read the case from the New Jersey state appeals court in which a couple on a motorcycle was seriously hurt when a teen driver slammed into them in a pickup truck. The young driver was texting with his girlfriend at the time.

"To summarize our conclusions, we do not hold that someone who texts to a person driving is liable for that person's negligent actions; the driver bears responsibility for obeying the law and maintaining safe control of the vehicle," the appeals court wrote.  "We hold that, 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 roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time.”

“It requires a finding that the person sending the text obviously knew the person they were sending it to was driving and was going to be distracted by it.  Going to read it or respond back to it,” McDivitt said.  “It’s like you were in the backseat, you knew the person was driving and you went ahead and did something that took their attention away from driving.

No case like it has been tried in Colorado, but McDivitt says it will probably be coming down the road.

“The boundaries between the virtual and physical are slowly eroding.  This is a great example of somebody saying look, you’re only here virtually but you are responsible for the thing that happened in the physical environment,” McDivitt said.

Texting while driving is banned in 41 states.  In Colorado you can face a fine for texting while driving.

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