ST. LOUIS (KMOX)- Texting and driving can have deadly consequences, and while an overwhelming majority of young drivers know that, they continue to text.
KMOX looked at the potential financial liabilities of not only texting, but other vehicle technologies.
Ely Hadowsky, an attorney with the law firm of Brown and Brown, says texting and driving is a liability above and beyond just not paying attention.
“We see that as gross negligence,” Hadowsky says. “Something we always pursue is trying to find the records of anybody’s cell phone when they’re behind the wheel to make sure that they weren’t operating their cell phone at the time of the accident.”
In Missouri, the law prohibits drivers 21 and younger from texting while driving. So, can parents be held responsible?
Hadowsky says parents may have some degree of liability, but more than likely, whomever is driving is responsible.
“As for liability on the individual or their parents, I don’t see it going to anyone else except the person who is behind the wheel at the time,” Hadowsky says.
Hadowsky says parents could have some degree of liability if they know their kids were texting and driving, or continue to provide a vehicle or the cell phone.
Does age have any bearing on liability?
“I don’t know if that makes a difference for the individual you would be going after, whether they’re 17 or 25. I don’t know why the state made it a cutoff for 21,” Hadowsky says. “It’s much like alcohol. If somebody’s driving drunk no matter their age, I think they’re going to have the same degree of liability there.”
Hadowsky says the only difference is that someone under 21 is breaking the current law.
“If it’s somebody who’s over 21, they’re not necessarily breaking the law in Missouri as the law is written now,” Hadowsky says. “You can still show they’re negligent. In a civil lawsuit, you can still go after them.”
However, cell phones are not the only technology the law is going after. New vehicle technology, such as GPS devices, could be raised as an issue. Brown says car manufacturers could soon be open to lawsuits.
“I’ve seen that issue raised before in a few forums,” Hadowsky says. “I would not be surprised if at some point you see a horrific vitality wreck involving many people, and I could see somebody bringing that type of lawsuit onto one of these car manufacturers.”
Hadowsky says not only are the car manufacturers making it easy to use different forms of technology while driving, but they are almost promoting it.
“If all the states had the same laws and were restrictive in how they enforced your ability to communicate whether it’s on a cell phone or blue tooth, then I think the care manufacturers would pull back a little bit on the technology that allows you to do that,” Hadowsky says.
But Hadowsky does not see the federal government imposing nationwide bans on vehicular technology or texting.
“It would be tough to ban it in one state and not another. People are passing through Missouri or Illinois everyday that do not know their texting laws,” Hadowsky says. “I don’t see a national ban going into effect. I think it’s going to be on a state-by-state basis.”