If you know someone is driving, would you consider sending them a text message? Would you send that message assuming they would ignore it until they stopped driving? If you send a text to someone you know is driving, and that person causes an accident, can you be held liable? Distracted driving is normally framed as a problem solely in the control of the driver. Don’t text and drive. Don’t Facebook and drive. Don’t program your GPS while driving. The problem may soon extend to people who participate in the distraction.
Some in the legal field believe that a person who sends a text message to someone they know is driving should share in the responsibility for violating distracted driving laws. Under that theory, you could be forced to pay compensation to the victim or victims of a car accident that resulted from a driver reading the text you sent. While there are no State laws holding texters criminally liable for distracting a driver, it remains to be seen whether liability can extend to a civil proceeding.
If you are outraged by the notion that you could be held liable for sending a text, there is a good chance you’ve never lost someone in a fatal car accident caused by a distracted driver. If you know someone is driving, you should know that it is not safe for them to be looking at text messages. Is sending a text message right away, as opposed to waiting for a safer time, really that important? Dram shop laws hold bars liable for over-serving patrons who then get into car accidents. An action that is acceptable in one situation can be negligent in another.
Whether or not Florida courts choose to hold text message senders liable in distracted driving cases, we should all work to improve traffic safety. Don’t distract people you know are driving. You will be helping to protect the message recipient, as well as everyone sharing the road with them.
Source: Market Watch, “Soon you could be sued for texting a driver that gets into a car wreck,” by Bob Sullivan, 5 May 2016
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