Oct 11, 2018

New York Appeals Court Rules Defendant Who Texted Driver Who Caused Car Crash Not Responsible

Imagine you are texting a friend, and you know your friend is driving a car while responding to your text messages.  Your friend causes a car crash and injures the other driver.  Can you be held responsible for the other driver’s injuries because your text messages may have distracted your friend and caused the accident?

A New York appeals court recently considered that very question, and ruled that the person who texted the driver (who then caused the accident) cannot be held responsible for the other driver’s injuries.  In Vega v. Crane, the Appellate Division of New York Supreme Court (4thDepartment), dismissed the claims brought by the injured driver who was hurt when the (texting) driver crossed the center line on a highway in Genesee County, causing a head-on collision.  Tragically, the driver who was responding to the text messages was killed in the accident.  But the appellate court ruled that even if the person sending a text message is aware that the person receiving the text message is behind the wheel, only the driver owes a duty (under New York law) to other motorists to drive safely and prevent an accident from happening.  It is the driver, ruled the court, who is ultimately responsible to avoid the distraction that could result from reading the incoming text message.