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Texting While Driving: The New Negligence

We all know that driving while intoxicated is dangerous and illegal. Finally, it seems we are beginning to realize the same about texting while driving – it is now a primary offense in 48 states meaning that you can be pulled over for texting alone. In addition, many states are starting to make penalties for texting while driving similar to those for driving under the influence. The truth is, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause accidents than driving while drunk. Texting while driving can also delay reaction times more than driving while drunk, and increases the chances of an accident by 23 percent.

With statistics like the above, it is easy to see how courts are now finding the act of texting while driving to constitute negligence. In a recent case in Massachusetts, the Court found 18-year-old Aaron Deveau guilty of homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Deveau had been texting while driving when he hit another car, killing the driver and seriously injuring the passenger. The Court found the act of texting while driving to constitute negligence, and Deveau was convicted of vehicular homicide, texting while driving, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Not only does the act of texting while driving constitutes negligence, but the texts themselves can also be used as evidence to prove the negligence. A Denver auto accident lawyer can establish that a driver was texting at the time an accident occurred by obtaining cell phone records, testimony, or even eyewitness reports. Once it is established that the driver was texting and therefore negligent, your auto accident lawyer can then hold the driver liable for damages resulting from injuries and/or deaths due to the accident.

But the driver may not be the only person liable for damages. In a move intended to send a clear message about the hazards of texting while driving and its willingness to hold people accountable for it, a Court in New Jersey opened the door to the sender of the text being held liable. In a New Jersey case, the victims of a distracted driving accident sued the driver who had been texting immediately prior to crashing into the motorcyclists. They also sued his girlfriend, who was sending him the texts. The Court dismissed the case against the girlfriend, and the Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, but stated that “liability could arise if the text sender had a special reason to believe the driver would read the message while behind the wheel.”

The Appellate Court in New Jersey opened the door to extending liability for accidents due to distracted driving to someone other than the actual driver. This is a huge development in personal injury law, and in particular, auto accident cases, because it broadens the potential number of people who may pay damages. It also demonstrates how serious courts and legislatures are about stopping texting while driving. 

Your Denver auto accident lawyer at Levine Law is here for anyone who has been involved in an accident and believes that negligence was a factor. To determine the correct avenue to take regarding your personal injury claim, contact our offices today. 

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