According to CNN, judges in New Jersey district courts ruled in a recent case that those who text drivers knowingly could be held partially responsible for injuries resulting from accidents. New Jersey has been cracking down on texting and driving in recent years, but a new ruling from a 2009 case is now extending blame to those who text drivers.
In September 2009, then 18-year-old Kyle Best was driving his pickup truck and texting his then 17-year-old girlfriend, Shannon Colonna. As Best sent a text to Colonna, he drifted across the centerline and hit an oncoming vehicle head-on. Both the driver and the passenger of the vehicle, David and Linda Kubert, lost their legs in the crash.
The Kubert’s subsequently sued Best for their pain and suffering from the accident, but they included Colonna in the lawsuit, claiming she was also responsible for the collision. They originally lost their claim against Colonna, but later appeaed. They argued that someone texting a driver is the equivalent of someone sitting next to a driver and willfully distracting them.
Three appeals court judges upheld that claim this summer. The judges ruled that the sender of a text message that knows his or her recipient is driving can be held responsible for distracting the driver and thus may be held liable for a resulting accident. However, Colonna was not considered liable because she claims she sent over 100 texts a day and was oblivious to whether her recipients were driving.
A law was passed last year based off the case, called the “Kulesh, Kubert and Bolish’s Law” that declares distracted driving a crime if the texting driver causes an accident. New legislation has been proposed by state Sen. James Holzapfel that would allow police to search cell phones if they have reason to believe the driver was texting when the accident occurred.
With new legislation and judgments occurring in New Jersey, drivers who are texting and those who knowingly text them are going to be held liable if their habits cause injuries or death. According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, in 2012, almost 900 people were injured in New Jersey traffic accidents cause by handheld cell phone use. In total, almost 2,000 accidents occurred because of cell phone use.
If a distracted driver has injured you or killed a loved one, contact our Middlesex County personal injury attorneys today at (732) 636-3030.
Spevack’s Did You Know: New Jersey’s law prohibiting using cell phones while driving went into effect in July of 2004.
Spevack Law Firm- Middlesex County personal injury lawyers