Can a Text Message Sender be Liable for a Truck Accident?
Obviously, texting and driving is dangerous. It is a serious distraction to try to operate a complex, fast-moving car while texting – and even more dangerous for a truck driver to operate a tractor trailer with that distraction. What about the person texting the driver? Can they be held responsible for the crash?
At the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team, we will consider all responsible parties when we file a lawsuit for your truck accident injuries. According to a New Jersey case, that might include the person who sends a text to a distracted driver. Especially if trucking companies are dangerously encouraging their drivers to text while driving, we will pursue cases against text senders to the full extent the law allows.
How is a Text Sender Liable?
To be sure, when a truck accident is caused by the negligence of the driver, the driver is first and foremost the one who is responsible for the crash. Typically, when a truck driver is working for a trucking company while they cause a crash, the trucking company can also be held accountable, since the crash was caused by their employer on their watch. This stands as a solid example of how other parties outside the car/truck can be held partly responsible a crash.
There is also a law in most states, typically called a “dram shop act,” that holds bars who overserve customers responsible for the drunk driving of those customers. In a recent Pennsylvania case that hopes to hold the sender of a text message liable, the attorneys for the plaintiff have compared the situation to a dram shop case. In a dram shop case, the bar or restaurant who overserves a customer is responsible for getting them drunk, in violation of liquor laws, thus responsible for the drunk driving accident they cause. In these texting cases, the goal is showing that someone who texts someone while they are driving is similarly responsible for the driver’s texting while driving.
At least in the New Jersey case, the judges who affirmed the possibility for a suit like this laid down an extra requirement to prove the text sender’s liability: the sender must know the recipient was driving.
Someone likely cannot be held liable simply for sending a text that leads to a crash. If, on the other hand, the sender knew that the recipient was driving, and continued to text back and forth, they might be held partially responsible. In that case, the text sender knew the person was driving, so when they continued to text them, they should have understood that it was causing distracted driving. They should then be held partially responsible for the results.
In the actual New Jersey case, the court found that the text message sender did not know the recipient was driving, and was not at fault. Still, the case stands as a warning to others who do know the recipient is driving, that New Jersey and other states could hold them liable.
When Would This Apply to a Texting Trucking Accident?
The nature of a truck driver’s job means that they are often on the road, physically driving a truck, throughout most of their time on-duty. That means that the close friends and family of a truck driver likely understand that the driver is at work, is driving, and should not be texted. If the truck driver does answer them, and lets them know that he or she is currently working, then they have confirmation that the truck driver is texting while driving. Any further texts they send are dangerous, and pull the driver’s attention away from the road.
Trucking companies and the people who directly manage truck drivers understand when their drivers are out in the field. Communication between truck drivers and their employers can easily occur via a hands-free phone call or through a truck’s radio system. Instead, if a trucking company opts to speak to its drivers by text message, they are setting the driver up for dangerous, distracted driving.
Especially if a manager or employer knows that their driver is currently on-duty, and they continue to text back and forth with the driver, they are creating a potentially deadly danger for the other drivers on the road.
In New Jersey, we know that this type of case should be accepted by the courts. In the rest of the country, we are willing to try this type of legal strategy if it applies to your case.
Speak With a Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If you have been involved in a truck accident, or lost a loved one to a truck accident, involving a driver who was texting and driving, contact our legal team. the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team fights across the country against truck drivers, their trucking company, and any other responsible party to get our clients compensation for their injuries. For a free consultation about your case with an I-70 truck accident lawyer, call us at (215) 246-9000.