LIABLE FOR DISTRACTED DRIVING EVEN IF YOU WEREN'T IN THE CAR? IN NEW JERSEY, IT'S POSSIBLE

It's well known that texting while driving can be extremely dangerous. So, it was perhaps no surprise when 18-year-old Kyle Best's texting and driving caused a tragic accident in 2009 when his truck veered over the centerline while he exchanged a string of texts with his 17-year-old girlfriend, Shannon Colonna. The sudden lane change sent Best's truck into a head-on crash with motorcyclistDavid Kubert and his wife, Linda. David and Linda each lost a leg, and they sued (and ultimately settled) with Best. What was a big surprise, however, was that David and Linda sued Shannon Colonna as well - arguing that the sender of the text should be treated as a passenger who willfully distracted the driver. 

A recent New Jersey appeals court decision agreed with this line of argument - at least in some circumstances. The court held that if the sender of a text knows or has reason to know the receiver is driving, an injured party may hold the sender liable for the accident itself. Fortunately for Colonna, the court found her not liable because she was unaware that Best was driving when she sent her text messages. Still, the decision provides a significant warning: Be careful when you text because liability for a distracted driving accident no longer depends on your being physically at the scene of the accident.

In New Jersey, driving while distracted by a hand-held wireless device is deemed not only negligent driving, but also illegal. In 2012, acting Governor Kim Guadagno signed the Kulesh, Kubert and Bolis' Law. The law states that if it is proved a defendant was operating a hand-held wireless device while driving, the prosecutor may use this evidence to argue the defendant was engaged in reckless driving. This allows a prosecutor to charge a defendant with the much more serious crimes of vehicular homicide or assault, which carry significant prison time and associated fines.

If you or anyone you know has been hurt by distracted driving, you have legal rights to redress the harm. To exercise these rights, contact a skilled and experienced auto accident injury attorney right away.

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