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Texting A Driver Could Get You Sued

When your text to a driver leads to an accident, can you be held liable? If that legal theory is upheld, it opens up additional avenues for future personal injury litigation in Illinois.

A case currently moving through the courts is testing this novel theory. In May 2013, Daniel E. Gallatin was killed in a motorcycle crash north of Pittsburgh. The dead man's family sued the other driver, alleging that her reading of a text message led to the accident. The family also sued the man who sent the text, the driver's husband, and the husband's landscaping company because it owned the vehicle the woman was driving. Although the case is in Pennsylvania, the issues it raises apply in Illinois as well.

Recognizing that texting while driving endangers lives and property, the Illinois Legislature enacted statute 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2, which states that "A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to compose, send, or read an electronic message." Numerous personal injury lawsuits have been filed and won against Illinois drivers whose texting and reading messages resulted in motor vehicle accidents.

These are but some of the questions arising from this legal theory and in any similar Illinois case that occurs in the future:

Can a person texting be held liable even if that person doesn't know the text recipient is driving? Does a person texting have a duty to first find out whether a person is driving before sending a text message to that person? If so, how would that be possible? What if the person texting has reason to believe that the recipient isn't driving at the time of an accident, but the recipient actually was?

Undoubtedly, any future case in Illinois will raise additional issues needing clarification in the courts.

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