Can You Be Liable Simply Because You Were on Your Phone at the Time of the Crash?
It seems like everyone does it—you’d be hard-pressed to find a motorist who doesn’t talk on a cell phone while driving. It happens a lot even in states like New Jersey, where drivers are prohibited by law from using any handheld device, including a cell phone, while driving. Can you be held liable for a motor vehicle accident based solely on the fact that you were using a mobile phone at the time of the crash?
Liability for Personal Injury in New Jersey
Most personal injury claims in New Jersey are based on a legal theory of negligence.(We noted in a previous blog that dog bites are one of the exceptions.) When you bring a legal claim for negligence, you must show three things:
- The defendant did not act reasonably;
- The failure to act reasonably caused an accident; and
- As a result of the accident, you suffered an actual loss.
Applying this standard to a motor vehicle accident where one of the parties was using a handheld phone at the time of the crash, the jury would go through the following analysis:
- Was it unreasonable for the person to be driving and using a handheld device at the same time? The fact that doing so in New Jersey is against the law would be compelling evidence that it is unreasonable.
- Was the use of the handheld phone the cause of the accident? Here, the analysis would be two-fold. First, would the accident have occurred if the driver had not been on the phone? Second, was it reasonably foreseeable that driving while talking on the phone might lead to an accident?
- Did the plaintiff suffer actual losses? Were the losses covered by insurance? Were there any physical injuries? Did any property lose value because of the crash?
Contact the Law Office of Howard D. Popper
For a free initial consultation to discuss any personal injury claim, contact our office online or call 973-993-8787 to set up an appointment. We have offices in Morristown and Newton. Currently, all our client communications are by phone, text message, or online videoconference.