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Liability in Texting-and-Driving Cases in New Jersey

Using your phone while driving, whether you’re texting, emailing, or calling, puts yourself and other drivers and pedestrians on the road at risk. In New Jersey, the first offense of talking or texting while driving has a minimum fine of $200, the second offense a fine of $400, and the third offense a fine of $600, a 90-day driver’s license suspension, and 3 motor vehicle penalty points. If you’re using your phone and driving and severely injure someone, you might face 6-18 months of jail time and a $10,000 fine. If the victim is killed, you might face 5-10 years in jail and up to $150,000 in fines.

Many New Jersey residents may not know that the victim would also have the option to sue not only the person texting and driving but also the person texting the driver.

In 2013, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey held that the sender of the text message could also be liable if the plaintiff could show that the sender “knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted”. This holding resulted from a tragic accident that happened on September 21, 2009, when a motorcyclist with a passenger was struck by a pickup truck.

Linda and David Kubert were rounding the bend of Hurd Street in Mine Hill Township when they were struck by defendant Kyle Best, the truck driver. Best had been distracted and texting back his friend, Shannon Colonna. The Kuberts were seriously injured and both lost their left leg. They sued Best and received damages for their pain and suffering, but they also claimed that Colonna knew Best was driving at the time she texted him and so was also liable for the collision.

While they settled with Best, they lost against Colonna and appealed the Court’s decision, landing the case into the Appellate Division. The Appellate Division found that the plaintiffs’ attorneys weren’t able to show that Colonna had knowingly been texting Best while he was driving. But, they held that if she had known, she may have also been liable for the accident.

What does this mean for New Jersey residents? It means you should not text a family member or friend who you know is operating a vehicle, for their safety and to protect you from any legal consequences.

As the weather gets chillier and the sun sets earlier and earlier, it’s more important than ever to make sure your loved ones are driving safely and are taking all precautions.

Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. remind us all of the importance of driving safely, sober, and without any distractions!

If you or a loved one have recently been injured in a car accident, the experienced attorneys at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C, may be able to help you. Please call us now for a free and confidential case evaluation at 1+ 833-464-0078, or chat with us online on our website.

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Since 1981, the compassionate personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon have been delivering results for our deserving clients. We are solely committed to helping injured individuals, never representing corporations. No matter how large or small your personal injury case is, you can trust that it is important to us.