The Person You're Texting While Driving, Can You Be Held Liable? - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Araksya Karapetyan

The Person You're Texting While Driving, Can You Be Held Liable?

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Almost everyday on the road, I see people on their phones, texting and driving. Immediately, I try to get away from those drivers.

We cover far too many stories in the news involving accidents where people happen to be on the phone. Too many people lose their lives because someone is casually talking or texting.

It's incredibly upsetting.

No matter what the rules are, it seems that most of the time, we think we're invincible. That it will never happen to us... Many may think they have mastered the combo of texting and driving, that they have memorized the keypad and rarely have to even look down, that a quick  response back is going to be ok.

But in an instant, in a split second, that very second you're hitting "send" is when things can change... forever.

This leads me to a story that caught my attention last week. And since today, once again, I saw a driver multitasking on the freeway, I decided to write about it.

Recently, in New Jersey, a state appeals court ruled that if you text someone who is driving, you may be held liable, if that driver causes an accident.

This story goes beyond the usual don't text and drive message.

Here's the story of what happened that led to this decision: Kyle Best was driving his pickup in 2009, when his girlfriend, Shannon Colonna sent him a text. The two were texting back and forth, when Kyle's truck drifted across the double center line and hit David Kubert and his wife who were on a motorcycle, head-on.

Well, the Kuberts both lost their legs and they sued. However, they didn't just go after the driver in this case, they included the person sending the text messages in the lawsuit. The way they saw it, was that Kyle was being distracted by Shannon, and so Shannon should also be held accountable. The Kuberts lost against Shannon, but appealed the decision.

Which brings me to this question- should you really be held liable for sending a driver a text message?

The argument that was made in this case, goes something like this- the person sending the text is "electronically" in the car with the driver, distracting the driver. In a sense, the texter is like a distracting passenger in the car.

Well, three appeals court judges agreed with that...in principle.

They ruled that if the person sending the text messages knows that the driver is behind the wheel while texting, then the sender is also responsible and can be held liable for the accident. But only if the sender is aware that the other person is in fact driving.

In this case Shannon was off the hook. Court documents showed the two had sent each other 62 texts that day, suggesting that it was a continuing conversation. Meaning Shannon was unaware Kyle was driving.

It's hard to know that someone is on the road when you're texting them, unless you have prior knowledge of course. So then, it would have to be a very specific case, say an employee and employer, or a parent and child.

For example, if you know that someone gets off work at 5 p.m. and is driving home at a certain hour, and that's when you start texting. In the end, isn't it the driver who is ultimately responsible? Not the person sending the text? You as the driver make the decision to glance at your phone, pick it up, look, and reply.

Let's be honest, it can be hard to ignore the phone when you hear a message come through, especially the way we're wired these days...But it's no joke. Nothing can be that important to risk your life, or anyone else's.

Even a passenger can distract a driver by talking, so what are you going to do, arrest the passenger for talking too? No...

The fact is, you as a driver have an obligation.... a huge responsibility.

It seems that by making the person who is texting responsible, in a way takes away from the driver's responsibility.

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