New York Car Accident Caused by a Texting Driver: Proving Fault and Liability

It is for good reason that distracted driving attracts significant attention.  Accidents resulting in injury and death as the result of drivers texting while driving is on the rise.  Alarmingly, motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers last year resulted in the death of over 3,000 people in addition to another 387,000 people being injured by such accidents.  In fact, studies show that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents as compared to motorists who do not text while operating their vehicles. 

As a result, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced in the Spring of 2013 that the penalty for texting or talking on a cell phone while driving would become a five (5) point violation, an increase of two (2) points from the previous law.  Moreover, persons with a junior or probationary license will face suspension or revocation of his driving privileges if convicted of texting or using a cell phone while driving.

The privilege of operating a motor vehicle places on all drives a duty of reasonable care.  Court decisions have applied this principle to all persons who choose to drive.  Any breach of the duty to exercise reasonable care will cause the driver to be liable to those persons he injures.  In addition to court decisions, the New York Legislature places specific penalties, via legislation, upon drivers who fail to exercise reasonable care by texting or using cell phones while driving. 

For example, New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1225-c states that, “no person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a public highway while using a mobile telephone to engage in a call while such vehicle is in motion.”  This law carries a presumption that this section is violated even if you are holding the phone to your ear or mouth, leaving only limited exceptions for using a “hands free” device or making an emergency call.  Additionally, a driver facing charges under this law is allowed to rebut the presumption by showing that he was not actually using the phone at the time the ticket was issued. 

Further, New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1225-d governs texting or using electronic devices while driving.  This statute states, “no person shall operate a motor vehicle while using any portable electronic device while such vehicle is in motion.”   Note that “portable electronic device” is defined as to include cell phones.  Moreover, texting, retrieving, or sending e-mail or other electronic date is considered “using” such a device. 

Legal liability for injuries and damages may be imposed upon those drivers who used a cell phone to either make a call, receive a call, send an e-mail, and/or when sending text messages. 

The attorneys at Greenberg and Greenberg handle car accident cases throughout New York State, including Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, and Albany County.  Our legal team has earned a reputation for dedicated service to our clients injured in New York personal injury accidents.  Please contact us today to receive a free case evaluation by dialing locally to 518-828-3336 or call toll free at 877-469-9300.

Posted on January 4, 2014 .