Could you be blamed for a car crash because you sent a text message?
A New Jersey judge will decide later this week if the sender of a text message might be partially liable for a horrific auto accident that occurred because the driver was reading that message on his cell phone and drifted into oncoming traffic.
With nearly half a million U.S. drivers injured in distracted driving-related accidents every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the judge’s decision could have wide-ranging impact in both the legal and digital realms.
While it might seem absurd to blame someone who isn’t even in the car — or anywhere near it — for causing an accident, some legal experts say the plaintiff is on firmer ground than you might think.
Skippy Weinstein, a Morristown-based lawyer, is using similar logic to press the case he filed on behalf of David and Linda Kuber. Both Kubers lost their legs during a 2009 crash in Mine Hill, N.J., after 19-year-old Kyle Best sideswiped their car when driving while texting. Weinstein said Shannon Colonna, who was texting with Best, should also be held responsible for the Kubers’ injuries.
“She was not physically in the vehicle but she was electronically present,” Weinstein told msnbc.com. “She and he were assisting each other in a violation of the law.”