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New Jersey Courts Rule Text Senders Can Also Be Sued in Texting Accident Cases

Cellphone technology has certainly contributed to making life more convenient. But everyone knows that texting while driving has created a hazard, since distracted drivers cause serious injuries and deaths for motorists, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The New Jersey state appeals court ruled in August 2013 that it is not only the driver receiving texts who must bear responsibility for negligence in a lawsuit. The sender with whom the driver is communicating can also be held liable for injuries, deaths and related expenses if the person is aware that the recipient is operating a motor vehicle at the time and, based on past conduct, knew the driver was likely to read the text while driving.

That ruling has met resistance from everyone, including Governor Chris Christie and the American Civil Liberties Union. Moreover, drivers who text are much more clearly implicated for their negligence. The law is clear on a few key points:

  • Texting while driving means the driver is negligent of the duty to drive with due caution and with respect to all traffic and safety laws.
  • If a failure to meet standard driving laws (e.g., violating the right of way of another vehicle, bicyclist or pedestrian) results in an accident and injuries, the texting driver is clearly the cause of those injuries.
  • If the injuries are found to place a financial burden (healthcare costs, lost time from work, out-of-pocket expenses, and pain and suffering) on the victim, any texting party is responsible for those costs.

By the current definitions of the law based on this ruling, more than one party can be sued if the accident was caused by a driver involved in a text conversation. A motor vehicle accident attorney understands the nuances of the law on this point and can use appropriate measures to obtain transcripts of the texts that occurred before, during and after the accident to pursue compensation on behalf of the injured plaintiff.

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