You were injured in an accident by a driver who was reading a text message. Can you sue the person who sent the text?
This question has yet to be answered by the Pennsylvania courts, but a New Jersey court recently took a stab at it. Last week, a judge ruled that you cannot sue the texter after a texting while driving accident.
The case involved a New Jersey couple who each lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. They brought personal injury claims against the driver as well as the person who sent the driver a text message. They claim that text message is what caused their accident. The text-sender, they said, knew or should have known her boyfriend was driving and she was "virtually present" before the accident.
The judge disagreed, stating that it was the driver's duty to pay attention to driving. The driver could have chosen not to answer his phone. He said if he were to reach a decision in favor of the plaintiffs, "any form of distraction could potentially serve as a basis of a liability case."
Liability for texting while driving
The ruling does not mean that the driver is off the hook. The driver faces a personal injury law suit for the injuries he caused while driving distracted.
This is true in both New Jersey and at home in Pennsylvania. A distracted driver can also face penalties for texting while driving. In Pennsylvania, a law making it illegal to text while driving went into effect in March. Those who text while driving now face a $50 fine and further penalties if they cause injuries due to distracted driving.