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Text someone when they are driving and you could be held liable.
Posted: 03 September 2013 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Lois - 02 September 2013 07:14 PM
macgyver - 02 September 2013 01:11 PM
Lois - 02 September 2013 11:04 AM

There is the doctrine of secondary negligence.

And where does it end Lois? If a killer stabs someone to death do we blame the company that made the knife. Perhaps the bus driver who let him off at the stop where he found his victim or the TV show that provided the script for the murder he copied. How about the high school teacher who flunked him and destroyed his self esteem? How about his parents for giving birth to him? Every one of those events was a contributing factor to the crime he committed. Where do we draw the line when we go beyond the person who made the final decision to commit the act?

We could blame all of them but what purpose would that serve society? What would the net effect be? It would make the lawyers happy because there would be lots of deep pockets to pick but it would cripple society because everyone would have to think twice before doing anything at all. How many degrees of separation do we need between ourselves and the event before we are considered guilt free in the eyes of the law? We would be paralyzed. What is the net benefit of a law that places liability on the texter? How many accidents will you really prevent? How many innocent people will have their lives dragged through the mud we call a legal system to benefit a few greedy lawyers and vengeful victims?

What do you suggest be done about it?  It’s the way our legal system works.  It got to where it is through hundreds of years of case law and precedence. In order to do what you suggest, the whole system would have to be turned on its head.  Sure, I’d like to see some things changed but I’d be reluctant to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You might find the law of unintended consequences kicking in with a vengeance and you could find yourself up the creek without a paddle. (Forgive the mixed metaphores.)

I am not saying we throw the whole thing out. I am just saying we need to be very careful about extending the concept of negligence beyond the actions for the party who made the choice that directly resulted in the bad outcome. Society should not accept this argument that transfers additional responsibility to others who are far removed form the decision and have no ability to control the final act.

Decisions like this may be based on precedent but they are only an interpretation of precedent. If we let them stand then they two become precedent. We have no legal way to legislate this as far as I know but since all decisions are a matter of opinion we can only hope that wiser judges would overturn this ruling so it doesnt add to precedent.

[ Edited: 03 September 2013 07:25 AM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 03 September 2013 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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StephenLawrence - 02 September 2013 11:34 PM
Lois - 02 September 2013 07:17 PM
DarronS - 31 August 2013 06:25 PM

I read the article macgyver linked, as well as some other articles and opinions about this ruling. It seems that people can be held liable for texting someone who is driving. This is wrong. I don’t text, but if I did how could I know if the person I am texting is driving? The driver is responsible for his/her actions, no one else. I hope this ruling gets overturned.

What if there is a transcript of the texts that clearly shows the original texter knew the person he was texting was driving and continued to text anyway?

In that case I think the non driver would share some responsibility.

Stephen

And how exactly are you going to prove that this did indeed happen. I listed a couple of scenarios above. Even if you accept the premise that the texter is responsible in some way ( and I don’t because no one forced the driver to attend to the text) It will never be black and white. There are far too many variables to ever prove that the texter knew the person was driving and recklessly continued to text and that the text actually lead to the accident.

What if I send you a text and you ignore it and still get into an accident 30 seconds later. How would the jury know you ignored it? There is no way they would be able to tell and I would be guilty until proven innocent ( and of course I could never prove my innocence). In addition how would the jury determine that I knew you would answer it while you were driving and that you wouldn’t pull over or wait?

There is far too much guess work and this will all come down to sympathy not facts.

Like I said above. You won’t have to even know the person was driving to get sued. You will be sued whether you knew or not. The lawyers all think its just fine to drag everyone into court and let the jury sort it out later. If you’re not negligent you have nothing to worry about in their minds which of course is not true. They will say its the price we pay to have a legal system like ours.

The outcome in civil trials is very unpredictable. Decisions of negligence often pivot on the sympathy vote. We should not be providing lawyers with ability to try people in cases that will always come down to very nebulous facts even if we accept the concept of secondary negligence in this case. A lot of innocent people are going to be harmed and I don;t see any good coming of it at all.

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Posted: 03 September 2013 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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macgyver - 03 September 2013 07:19 AM
StephenLawrence - 02 September 2013 11:34 PM
Lois - 02 September 2013 07:17 PM
DarronS - 31 August 2013 06:25 PM

I read the article macgyver linked, as well as some other articles and opinions about this ruling. It seems that people can be held liable for texting someone who is driving. This is wrong. I don’t text, but if I did how could I know if the person I am texting is driving? The driver is responsible for his/her actions, no one else. I hope this ruling gets overturned.

What if there is a transcript of the texts that clearly shows the original texter knew the person he was texting was driving and continued to text anyway?

In that case I think the non driver would share some responsibility.

Stephen

And how exactly are you going to prove that this did indeed happen. I listed a couple of scenarios above. Even if you accept the premise that the texter is responsible in some way ( and I don’t because no one forced the driver to attend to the text) It will never be black and white. There are far too many variables to ever prove that the texter knew the person was driving and recklessly continued to text and that the text actually lead to the accident.

What if I send you a text and you ignore it and still get into an accident 30 seconds later. How would the jury know you ignored it? There is no way they would be able to tell and I would be guilty until proven innocent ( and of course I could never prove my innocence). In addition how would the jury determine that I knew you would answer it while you were driving and that you wouldn’t pull over or wait?

There is far too much guess work and this will all come down to sympathy not facts.

Like I said above. You won’t have to even know the person was driving to get sued. You will be sued whether you knew or not. The lawyers all think its just fine to drag everyone into court and let the jury sort it out later. If you’re not negligent you have nothing to worry about in their minds which of course is not true. They will say its the price we pay to have a legal system like ours.

The outcome in civil trials is very unpredictable. Decisions of negligence often pivot on the sympathy vote. We should not be providing lawyers with ability to try people in cases that will always come down to very nebulous facts even if we accept the concept of secondary negligence in this case. A lot of innocent people are going to be harmed and I don;t see any good coming of it at all.

Uou wrote: What if I send you a text and you ignore it and still get into an accident 30 seconds later. How would the jury know you ignored it?

Lois:They would know if there was a time-stamped transcript of the texts, which, it would appear, was the case in the NJ decision.  It’s unlikely that he prosecutor was relying on hearsay. But nothing came of it in this case because the original texter was never charged.  The decision just left the door open for future cases. Nobody is suggesting that a jury be handed a case with no evidence. This kind of situation would most likely only affect civil cases rather than criminal ones.


You wrote: We should not be providing lawyers with ability to try people in cases that will always come down to very nebulous facts even if we accept the concept of secondary negligence in this case. A lot of innocent people are going to be harmed and I don;t see any good coming of it at all.

Lois: A time-stamped transcript is not a nebulous fact. We’ll have to wait and see if anything of any consequence comes of this decision.  Many legal decisions are never acted upon.

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Posted: 03 September 2013 10:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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You’re missing the point here Lois. First, the time stamp only tells you when the text was sent it tells you nothing about what the recipient did. you don;t know if the recipient picked it up and looked at it from the transcript. The simple example I gave where someone sends a text ” hey I’m on my way over” and the person answers back “OK” and then an accident occurs.  The jury would have no way of knowing if the driver ever actually saw the massage or correctly ignored it and got into the accident for completely unrelated reasons.

Everything about these events will be nebulous because we aren’t there in the car to see what the driver is actually doing and what effect the text had on their driving. We are making inferences and those inferences will be clouded by the prejudices and experiences of each jury member.

Again this all presumes that we accept the argument of secondary negligence which I don’t in these cases. I think these cases would cause far more harm than good. You may very rarely find a case where someone did something very egregious but 99% of the people who get caught up in this dragnet of expanding guilt will be innocent of doing anything remotely negligent.

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Posted: 03 September 2013 12:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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macgyver - 03 September 2013 07:19 AM
StephenLawrence - 02 September 2013 11:34 PM
Lois - 02 September 2013 07:17 PM
DarronS - 31 August 2013 06:25 PM

I read the article macgyver linked, as well as some other articles and opinions about this ruling. It seems that people can be held liable for texting someone who is driving. This is wrong. I don’t text, but if I did how could I know if the person I am texting is driving? The driver is responsible for his/her actions, no one else. I hope this ruling gets overturned.

What if there is a transcript of the texts that clearly shows the original texter knew the person he was texting was driving and continued to text anyway?

In that case I think the non driver would share some responsibility.

Stephen

And how exactly are you going to prove that this did indeed happen.

Lois said how. The transcript of the text, which would go something like: ” Hi Pete where are you”. “I’m driving home from work”.

Like I said above. You won’t have to even know the person was driving to get sued. You will be sued whether you knew or not.

Suing is usually wrong because the penalty needs to fit with what’s required for deterrent and correction. Usually suing is way over that kind of level and is based on some ancient fiction about justice based on libertarian free will. You display your belief in that nonsense by talking about “ultimate responsibility.”

Stephen

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Posted: 03 September 2013 04:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Stephen you obviously didn’t read the rest of my post if you think think the answer to proving negligence is as simple as reading a transcript. Go back and read what i wrote.

You need to clarify your second statement about suing being wrong. If you don’t believe in free will then you don’t belong on this thread since the whole concept of a legal system is based on the existence of free will and this entire thread is a discussion of the legal system.

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Posted: 03 September 2013 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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macgyver - 03 September 2013 10:45 AM

You’re missing the point here Lois. First, the time stamp only tells you when the text was sent it tells you nothing about what the recipient did. you don;t know if the recipient picked it up and looked at it from the transcript. The simple example I gave where someone sends a text ” hey I’m on my way over” and the person answers back “OK” and then an accident occurs.  The jury would have no way of knowing if the driver ever actually saw the massage or correctly ignored it and got into the accident for completely unrelated reasons.

Everything about these events will be nebulous because we aren’t there in the car to see what the driver is actually doing and what effect the text had on their driving. We are making inferences and those inferences will be clouded by the prejudices and experiences of each jury member.

Again this all presumes that we accept the argument of secondary negligence which I don’t in these cases. I think these cases would cause far more harm than good. You may very rarely find a case where someone did something very egregious but 99% of the people who get caught up in this dragnet of expanding guilt will be innocent of doing anything remotely negligent.

Some transcripts are more telling. If a transcript shows a conversation taking place just before an accident and also shows that the driver told the other texter he was driving, it would be evidence.  I don’t like the decision, myself, but my advice to you is to stay out of New Jersey, especially if you text. I never do, so it’s not an issue for me, except that someone else could be texting and crash into my car or hit me as a pedestrian. I’m not losing any sleep over it, though.  It’s a pretty unlikely scenario.

Lois

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Posted: 04 September 2013 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Lois - 03 September 2013 05:21 PM

Some transcripts are more telling. If a transcript shows a conversation taking place just before an accident and also shows that the driver told the other texter he was driving, it would be evidence.  I don’t like the decision, myself, but my advice to you is to stay out of New Jersey, especially if you text. I never do, so it’s not an issue for me, except that someone else could be texting and crash into my car or hit me as a pedestrian. I’m not losing any sleep over it, though.  It’s a pretty unlikely scenario.

Lois

You are still making a big inference, first that the driver actually viewed the final text prior to the accident ( you can;t get that information from the transcript) and second that the texting was directly responsible for the accident rather than some other factor you can’t see in the transcript.

Let me propose a couple of situations again.

Lets say you text a person. he looks at the message and puts the phone down. He is now driving.. eyes on the road and gets onto an accident 30 seconds later long after he stopped attending to the text message. The accident had absolutely nothing to do with the text but in a court of law you would have a hard time arguing that.

In another case you text a person and he ignores the text for 5 or 10 minutes, but then decides to look at it when he is crossing an intersection and he gets into an accident. The transcript would not look very bad even though the text was exactly what caused the accident.

There are just too many things a transcript doesnt tell you.

Unfortunately living on Long Island its not practical to avoid NJ and one states decisions often have a way of influencing things in surrounding states. Judges are not immune to public opinion though. They are us after all so I think public outrage over decisions like this can and do influence future decisions. Mans law is not like the laws of physics. Everything in our legal system is opinion not fact and opinions change over time.

[ Edited: 04 September 2013 12:06 PM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 04 September 2013 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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macgyver - 03 September 2013 10:45 AM

You’re missing the point here Lois. First, the time stamp only tells you when the text was sent it tells you nothing about what the recipient did. you don;t know if the recipient picked it up and looked at it from the transcript. The simple example I gave where someone sends a text ” hey I’m on my way over” and the person answers back “OK” and then an accident occurs.  The jury would have no way of knowing if the driver ever actually saw the massage or correctly ignored it and got into the accident for completely unrelated reasons.

Everything about these events will be nebulous because we aren’t there in the car to see what the driver is actually doing and what effect the text had on their driving. We are making inferences and those inferences will be clouded by the prejudices and experiences of each jury member.

Again this all presumes that we accept the argument of secondary negligence which I don’t in these cases. I think these cases would cause far more harm than good. You may very rarely find a case where someone did something very egregious but 99% of the people who get caught up in this dragnet of expanding guilt will be innocent of doing anything remotely negligent.

?

What if the transcript showed driver texting back while driving? What if it showed a text, or partial text, going from the driver to the other texter seconds before a collision, while the transcript also shows that the texter knew the person was driving because the driver informed the texter that he was driving?

Unusual, perhaps, maybe even unlikely, but not impossible. Stranger things have been used to impose liability.

Lois

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Posted: 04 September 2013 03:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Lois - 04 September 2013 02:01 PM
macgyver - 03 September 2013 10:45 AM

You’re missing the point here Lois. First, the time stamp only tells you when the text was sent it tells you nothing about what the recipient did. you don;t know if the recipient picked it up and looked at it from the transcript. The simple example I gave where someone sends a text ” hey I’m on my way over” and the person answers back “OK” and then an accident occurs.  The jury would have no way of knowing if the driver ever actually saw the massage or correctly ignored it and got into the accident for completely unrelated reasons.

Everything about these events will be nebulous because we aren’t there in the car to see what the driver is actually doing and what effect the text had on their driving. We are making inferences and those inferences will be clouded by the prejudices and experiences of each jury member.

Again this all presumes that we accept the argument of secondary negligence which I don’t in these cases. I think these cases would cause far more harm than good. You may very rarely find a case where someone did something very egregious but 99% of the people who get caught up in this dragnet of expanding guilt will be innocent of doing anything remotely negligent.

?

What if the transcript showed driver texting back while driving? What if it showed a text, or partial text, going from the driver to the other texter seconds before a collision, while the transcript also shows that the texter knew the person was driving because the driver informed the texter that he was driving?

Unusual, perhaps, maybe even unlikely, but not impossible. Stranger things have been used to impose liability.

Lois

Lois you are correct. I don’t doubt that we could come up with some extremely unlikely scenario in which the evidence would be so clear as to leave very little doubt, but coming from a family of doctors with one black sheep among us ( we have a malpractice attorney in the family) I can tell you that the civil legal system is so badly misused that for every legitimate case brought against someone who texted to a driver there will be dozens if not hundreds of cases brought where the facts are far less convincing. In most cases the person will be entirely innocent of any negligence but they will be sued just the same. In fact I have so little faith in the civil jury system that I will go so far as to say that the majority of individuals who lose such a case will most likely have done nothing wrong.

As I see it the system is so lopsided and unfair as it stands that any ruling which gives lawyers an opportunity to drag more innocent people into court when the facts of the case are so unclear is a big mistake. It just gives them another avenue by which to misuse the legal system for their own profit.

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