It seems to stretch previously conceived limits of legal liability, but a recent case out of Lawrence County, PA, suggests that even if you’re not the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident, you can possibly be civilly liable for that accident when you send a text message and the recipient of your text reads and responds while driving. Notably, you don’t even have to be in the car which is involved in the accident!
The case, Gallatin v. Gargiulo, is noted for allowing claims of negligence and wrongful-death to proceed against two individuals who were texting a driver who was involved in an eventual fatal accident. It should be emphasized that the Court did not determine that these individuals are liable or that there is a cause of action for such activity, only that the Court has allowed the claims against them to proceed for a later determination.
You are likely wondering, as was I on first read, “How can this be?” How can a person who sends a text message from his couch in Philadelphia possibly be liable for an accident which occurs on I-76? Well, it’s not that cut-and-dry in terms of establishing liability on the part of the text sender. To potentially be deemed legally responsible, a text sender must know or have reason to know at the time of the accident that the person they are texting is driving and will view the text.
Is this an easy burden to satisfy? Absolutely not! It does, however, demonstrate just how far the law is potentially willing to go to combat texting-and-driving in Pennsylvania. It’s also another pocket which could be available to a victim of a texting-while-driving accident.
PRACTICAL: It’s entirely too early to know the legal ramifications of the case referenced above. However, if the Court ultimately recognizes a cause of action against those who send text messages to a driver involved in an accident, that holding would certainly alter the legal landscape of civil motor vehicle lawsuits.
If you’ve been named in a lawsuit in which your only alleged misconduct was sending a text message to a third party, the attorneys at Howland Hess O’Connell are ready and able to defend you today. Call for a free consultation at (215)-947-6240, or contact us online.
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