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Liability of car accident could be placed on text sender

Maryland has had a texting while driving ban in place since 2009. The law prohibits a driver from composing a text message while behind the wheel and it a violation of the ban can carry a fine as great as $500. There are caveats: in emergency situations or if the driver is using GPS, they cannot be hit with a texting while driving offense.

Reducing the number of car accidents as a result of distracted driving is the goal of such a ban, and it targets the person in control of physically looking at the text. But an interesting question is being posed in an out-of-state case that could set a precedent. If a person who crashes their vehicle is guilty of texting while driving, should the person who sent the driver a text be liable as well?

In New Jersey, they are trying to answer this question. It stems from a 2009 incident when a driver admittedly took his eyes off the road to read a text. He swerved out of his lane and hit a motorcycle, catastrophically injuring both riders -- one had his leg torn off during the accident, while the other had to have a leg amputated due to the trauma the limb suffered. The negligent driver is being sued by the motorcycle riders.

However, they are also suing the person who sent the text to the driver. On some level, you could argue that they do play a role in the accident and should share liability. But legally is an entirely different situation. The term "duty of care" means that a person has to provide reasonable care while doing something that could potentially harm others.

The attorney for the text sender in this case says "duty of care" does not apply here because the text sender has no control over the driver's actions. The judge will make his ruling on May 25.

Source: Daily Record, "Morris judge to decide if sender of text is liable if receiver crashes car," Peggy Wright, May 4, 2012

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