Texting a driver? You could be sued.Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck
PHOENIX -- People sending texts to drivers could get sued if the driver wrecks the vehicle.
In New Jersey, a lawsuit is unfolding in which the girlfriend of a teenage driver might be found to have been “electronically present” when her boyfriend crashed the car while texting her. That means she could be liable too.
In Arizona, the laws are much narrower, but some people could still be covered by the electronically present doctrine.
“The idea of being out of the vehicle and still being negligent would apply in several instances in Arizona,” said Tommy Richardson, an attorney at Friedl Richardson in Phoenix.
Richardson routinely handles texting and driving cases, and says Arizona attorneys are beginning to argue the theory that the person texting the driver is liable, but it only applies in certain circumstances.
The person the driver was texting would have to be in some position of authority over the driver, like a boss or a parent.
“You as the controller of other people’s actions are responsible for those actions,” said Richardson.
The driver would also have to know, or should know, that the driver was actually driving in order to be found liable for an accident.
Meredith Colbrunn, a Phoenix mom, approves of the electronically present doctrine.
“It makes sense,” Colbrunn said, “If you are with someone who is drinking and driving you have responsibility to other people. So if you’re an accomplice to any crime, that would seem logical to me.”
In March of 2012, the Arizona legislature failed to pass a bill that would have made texting and driving a crime in Arizona. However, several cities, including Phoenix have bans on texting and driving.