Third-Party Liability For Texting And Driving Accidents

Minnesotans who cause accidents while they are texting and driving may be liable to people that they injure, and certain third parties might also be partially liable for the accidents. Texting and driving is dangerous because people who take their attention away from the road to read or send text messages may travel hundreds of feet while their eyes are not on the road, potentially causing them to drift out of their lanes into oncoming traffic, run off of the road or slam into vehicles that are in front of them.

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Some people who have been injured by drivers who were texting have tried to assert claims against other parties in addition to the drivers, including cell phone manufacturers and third parties under theories of product liability and negligence. These actions have met with mixed results, but third parties have been found to be liable in texting and driving accidents in some jurisdictions. A personal injury lawyer in MN may assert a claim against a third party for texting a negligent driver if the third party knew that the driver was driving at the time.


Distracted driving increases accident risks, and texting while driving is especially dangerous. When a person texts and drives, he or she takes his or her visual attention, motor attention and cognitive attention away from the road in order to attend to the tasks involved with texting and reading text messages. According to the Virginia Tech Traffic Institute, people who text and drive have a 23 times greater chance of accident involvement. Teen drivers have the highest risk and are four times likelier to be involved in crashes while texting than are older drivers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 18 percent of all injury accidents in 2010 involved distracted drivers. People who are injured by drivers who were texting at the time of the accidents may hold them liable through personal injury lawsuits. Some injured victims have also attempted to hold cell phone makers, rental car companies and third parties with whom the drivers were texting liable as well.


People around the country have asserted claims against cell phone makers and other companies alleging product defects were a cause of the distracted driving and resulting accidents. These claims have not met with success, however. In one case that was filed in federal court in North Carolina, a plaintiff alleged that a truck driver’s distraction by his truck’s texting system was partly due to a design defect because the system itself was distracting. In another case filed in California, a plaintiff alleged that the Hertz rental car company was liable for her accident because its GPS system was not designed to go off when the vehicle was in motion. In both cases, the courts held that the drivers’ inattention was what caused the accidents and not the devices.


While product liability claims have not met with success in texting and driving cases, claims against third parties who were texting drivers have in several jurisdictions. In one case in New Jersey, a driver who was texting struck a motorcycle, seriously injuring two people. The victims sued the driver and the woman the driver was texting. The court ruled that remote third parties could be held liable for texting people who are driving if they knew or had a special reason to know that the people were driving at the time that they were texting. The court found that the plaintiff had not shown that the woman knew that the man was driving when the accident happened, however.

In another case that was filed against a mother and a daughter who were texting at the time the daughter caused an accident, an appeals court in Indiana held that the mother could be jointly liable for the accident. In that case, the mother was following the daughter home from a bar and was texting her as they drove. The daughter was intoxicated and distracted by the text messages, and the mother knew that she was driving.

When people are injured by drivers who are texting and driving, a personal injury lawyer in MN will review the cases in order to determine all potentially liable parties. The lawyer might name a third party as a defendant of the lawsuit if the evidence shows that the third party knew that the driver was driving. By identifying multiple recovery sources, a personal injury lawyer in MN may be able to maximize the amount of recovery his or her client might receive. People should understand the dangers of texting and driving, and they should avoid doing it when they are driving. A personal injury lawyer in MN also encourages others not to send text messages to people they know are driving.

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