Could liability be expanded to sender if driver reads text message in car?


Texting in a classroom is OK when the teacher says so. Texting in a car is never a good idea and even illegal in some places. Driver's ed teacher David O'Connor tries to impress that upon his students.

"Talking about when you text, you look away from the road for about 5 seconds, and how much can happen in those 5 seconds?" said O'Connor.

While O'Connor passes along the dangers of texting and driving, a recent appeals court decision in New Jersey found the person sending the text to a driver can be held liable for damages, too. It's something even a driver's ed teacher says is hard to believe.

"That would be hard I would say. Honestly if I send a text, do I know if you're driving at that moment?" said O'Connor.

The New Jersey judges ultimately let the texter off the hook because they found the texter in question did not know the person reading the texts was behind the wheel. But legal experts say proving otherwise could be easy in some circumstances.

"Let's say your establishment has hired a 17-year-old to deliver pizzas. Well you cannot be texting him the address or location he needs to go. Because then you're relying on him to look at a text message to get where he needs to be. That's a case where we could see some liability," said legal analyst Rania Mankarious.

She adds, in Texas there are already texting laws in place for younger drivers.

"If you're 18 and younger, you cannot be texting and driving in the car," said Mankarious.

Mankarious says drivers are also prohibited from texting behind the wheel. Mankarious stresses the burden for staying alert behind the wheel always lies with the driver, but sees a time when those sending texts could face penalties too.

Right now, there is no statewide texting and driving ban for all drivers in Texas, but more communities across the state are passing their own and enforcing their own versions.

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