Texting to a Driver Does Not Make You Liable for a Kentucky Car Accident
In 2009, a New Jersey teen was texting with his girlfriend while driving home from work. His car crossed the center line and he crashed into two motorcyclists. The husband and wife he hit both lost part of a leg in the motorcycle accident. The teen has admitted he was distracted by his phone while he was driving and has pleaded guilty in his criminal case to using a cell phone improperly, failing to stay in his lane and careless driving. He is on probation and was required to talk to teens about the dangers of texting and driving. A civil case against him is still pending.
As cell phone use has increased, many states have created laws to prohibit using cell phones in certain ways while driving to prevent car accidents. Currently 38 states prohibit texting while driving, with an additional five states prohibiting new drivers from texting behind the wheel. In Kentucky, no drivers are allowed to text while driving, and if they do, it is a primary offense, which means a driver can be stopped by a police officer just for texting while driving. A Kentucky driver that is pulled over for texting while driving, which includes reading or sending messages, can be fined $25.00 plus court costs. A second offense will cost $50.00 plus court fees.
New Jersey currently has a law against texting and driving too, but the attorney representing the victims in the above accident tried to take it a step further. On behalf of his clients, the attorney filed a lawsuit against the teen’s girlfriend who had been texting him while he was driving. The attorney’s argument was that the girlfriend knew the teen was driving, so she knowingly distracted him with texting while he was behind the wheel, thereby helping to cause the car accident. The lawsuit attempted to charge her with aiding and abetting, which occurs when a person does not actually commit the crime, but is marginally involved. Because she started the text messaging exchange and she testified during a deposition that she may have known the teen driver was in the car at that time, she was partially at fault.
The female teen’s lawyer argued she was not responsible because she had no idea when or where the teen driver would ultimately receive, read, or respond to the message. The judge who presided over this case that was being followed by law firms across the country disagreed with the victims’ attorney and dismissed the claims against the teen girl who texted the driver. He stated there was no case law regarding this situation and that if this suit was allowed to continue, it would open up the possibility for hundreds of lawsuits against people or things that distract drivers every day. The victims’ attorney plans to appeal the decision, but notes that even if they don’t win, he hopes that people will think twice before sending a text to someone may be driving at the time.
As the law tries to keep up with today’s constantly changing technology, it can be difficult to know what is against the law and what isn’t. If you have questions regarding a car accident that you were injured in, contact an experienced Kentucky personal injury attorney like Steve Frederick. Steve helps people throughout Indiana and Kentucky make sense of the law when they have been injured.
No Liability Found for Sending Texts to Driver Just Before Crash; New Jersey Law Journal; Mary Pat Gallagher; May 25, 2012
Judge Clears Texting Woman From Boyfriend's Texting-and-Driving Lawsuit; ABC News; Marisa Taylor; May 25, 2012