This week a pair of courts significantly extended of liability for distracted driving. The most significant case involves potential liability for someone texting a driver that they know will be interacting with them who then causes an accident. Perhaps these two cases will serve as a wake-up call for those regularly carried on this hazardous practice. Summaries of the cases appear below.
Texting Driver Who Then Crashes May Be Basis of Personal Liability
Texting with knowledge or with reason to believe the recipient will view the text while driving can be the basis of liability for a car accident, a New Jersey appeals court ruled Tuesday in a case of first impression. “The sender has knowingly engaged in distracting conduct, and it is not unfair also to hold the sender responsible for the distraction,” the Appellate Division said while holding harmless the texter in the case at bar, Kubert v. Best — the first known instance in the country of a court finding a basis for texter liability for accidents.
Rockwell v. Knott, No. 12 CV 1114 (Lackawanna Aug. 13, 2013)
“A motorist arguably may engage in recklessly indifferent conduct, and thereby be potentially liable for punitive damages, if [s]he completely diverts his or her attention from the roadway to observe a low positioned GPS device and nevertheless continues to travel on the roadway until [s]he collides with another vehicle.” Although the court acknowledged that a punitive damages claim is colorable in such a situation, there was no evidence to support this claim in this particular case. The case has settled.