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Can someone be electronically present in a car accident?

Texting while driving has become a social concern and has been the underlying cause of many car accidents. Typically, car accidents that involve texting occur when a driver is actually texting while driving. Drivers who are texting while driving are usually liable for an accident that occurs because of the distracted behavior. Do the same rules apply to the person who is texting the driver? A unique lawsuit has recently been decided in New Jersey regarding the liability of a person who was texting someone who was driving.

The underlying accident of the lawsuit occurred in 2009, when the driver of the car read a text message from his girlfriend. After the girlfriend sent the driver a text message, the driver responded with a text and caused a car accident. While the driver was responding to his girlfriend's text message, he hit a couple that was on a motorcycle. The motorcycle couple incurred serious injuries as a result of the accident.

The injured motorcycle couple filed a lawsuit against the young man and his girlfriend who sent the text message that was responded to moments before the crash. The lawsuit sought damages for their injuries and claimed the girlfriend was liable for the accident because she sent the initial text message that caused the driver to engage in distracted driving that caused car accident. The injured couple argued the girlfriend was electronically present in the accident and should have known the driver was operating a motor vehicle when she sent the text message.

In response to the lawsuit, the girlfriend claimed that although she sent the text message, she did not have any control over the actions of the driver in responding to the text message. The lawsuit against the girlfriend was dismissed. The injured party claims they will appeal, but are hopeful this lawsuit will bring attention to the dangers of distracted driving.

For some victims, they need the monetary compensation gained in a civil lawsuit to help cover lost wages, medical bills and other damages. Some simply want the public to know about the dangerous circumstances that can lead to accidents. Many victims simply want to raise awareness in the hopes that another family will not have to suffer the same pain and loss that they did. Civil lawsuits are one way for individuals to access the public platform they need to get their message across.

Source:, "New Jersey judge rules texter not liable for driver's car crash," May 26, 2012

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