In August 2012, a New Jersey court ruled that people who knowingly send text messages to drivers could be held liable for injuries caused by the distracted driver. The case arose from a terrible motorcycle accident caused by someone who was "texting and driving." The driver in that case is obviously liable for the catastrophic harm he caused the motorcycle riders. Distracted driving is unacceptable, as it creates needless danger on our public roadways and to our families.
Conversely, I disagree with the court's ruling as it relates to the individual who was texting the driver. To hold someone liable for texting a driver would be like holding a grocery store liable for selling someone who drove to the store an unopened case of beer or bottle of wine. It is not the grocery store's responsibility to keep the driver from opening the bottles until he gets home. If someone buys a 6-pack at Publix, and proceeds to drink & drive, it is the irresponsible driver, not Publix, that should be on the hook for any accidents. Likewise, it is the driver who opens the text message, takes their eyes off the road, and crashes into someone who must account for the harm they cause. The driver chose to endanger our community. The person sending the text did not force them to open the message anymore than a grocery store requires you to open a bottle of wine before leaving the parking lot.
I handle lots of car and motorcycle accidents in Columbia and throughout the state. I believe in personal responsibility and strict enforcement of the roadway safety rules that are in place to prevent harm. In fact, I believe South Carolina's legislature should ban "texting and driving." However, we must draw lines and only hold actual wrongdoers accountable for accidents.
If you have questions about liability for texting and driving in South Carolina, call me at (803) 790-2800.