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Are Text Senders Responsible for Distracted Driving Accidents?


Imagine the last time you sent a text to someone. Before you hit "send," did you think about what the person on the other end might have been doing at the time?

If you answered "no," you are likely not alone. Even if you were curious about what the recipient was doing at the time of your text, it likely wouldn't have affected whether you sent it.

However, a few cases have popped up across the country in which text message senders have been named in car accident lawsuits.

To text or not to text: How do you know?

While none of the cases are in California, they are raising interesting questions nationwide about the role of text senders in distracted driving accidents.

The first question revolves around when it is appropriate to send a text. If you know the recipient is driving, should you wait to send the message?

One appellate court ruled that you should. The court stated that individuals have a duty to not distract someone they know is driving by sending a text. The same court stated that if you even have reason to believe a recipient is driving, you should not send the text.

Of course, this brings up the common scenario that not every sender knows what the recipient is doing at the time of a text. Should you wait until you know for certain what the recipient is doing? How do you find out without contacting them in some way? For now, it seems courts would not favor holding unknowing senders accountable in such situations.

Who is responsible?

Even if the sender of a text knew that the recipient was driving, the question still remains: Is the sender responsible for creating a distraction that led to a crash? Or is the recipient responsible for checking their phone while driving? Or is it both?

The appellate court mentioned above ruled that both can be responsible. However, there are very few cases at this point in time to support this idea.

Attributing liability for a crash to the sender of a text is a relatively new concept. It will be interesting to see if it becomes a more widely used practice.

What do you think? Should the sender of a text be held responsible for an accident?

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