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Sending A Text Message Can Result In A Lawsuit

In New Jersey, a person can be charged with a criminal offense of assault by auto if that person caused an accident with injury while using a hand-held wireless telephone when driving.  The criminal statute N.J.S.A. 2C:1( c)(1) states in part, “Proof that the defendant was operating a hand-held wireless telephone while driving a motor vehicle…may give rise to an inference that the defendant was driving recklessly.”  This crime is a fourth degree offense that carries possible time in jail.  And, of course, a driver using a cell phone while driving can also be sued for driving in a careless or reckless manner that caused an accident with physical injury.

However, a recent New Jersey Appellate Division ruling has taken the issue of texting one step further.  The ruling in Kubert v. Best states a person that sends a text message to an automobile driver who gets into an accident can be sued.  Specifically, the Court wrote, “[w]e hold that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or has special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.”

So, think twice before sending a text message in New Jersey if you know the person receiving the message is driving an automobile.

Leckerman