Teenager Sentenced to Jail for Negligent Driving While Texting


June 07, 2012

While most people understand that it is not safe to text and drive, a substantial number of people continue to engage in this dangerous practice. Texting and driving has been deemed by federal regulators and public safety experts as the "new drunk driving." A jury verdict in a Mass. criminal case suggests this analogy to drunk driving is increasingly accurate. A teenage driver will spend 18 months in jail following his conviction for vehicular homicide and negligent operation while texting. The sentence was thirty months with one year suspended, but he had faced a potential maximum of four years of incarceration.

The prosecutor in the case presented evidence that the 17 year-old had sent 193 texts the day of the fatal crash, including multiple texts immediately prior to the collision and many more immediately after the car accident. The case is particularly noteworthy because it was the first case tried in that state under a new law that makes it a crime to drive negligently while texting. Because studies show that drivers who are texting and driving exhibit impairment of their driving skills comparable to drunk drivers, laws imposing comparable criminal penalties may be the direction the law moves in many states.

This tragic texting while driving accident occurred when the texting teenager crossed the center line and slammed head-on into another vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle, a father of three, died as a result of injuries suffered in the collision. A passenger in the car of the fatality victim also suffered extensive injuries and endured a long period of hospitalization.

The civil law implications of this type of criminal offense are significant because of the legal principle of negligence per se. This legal doctrine in the context of traffic safety in Georgia provides that strict liability may be imposed where violation of a public safety statute causes injury to others who share Georgia roadways. A law that imposes stiff criminal penalties for negligent driving while texting is clearly designed to protect the public from distracted drivers. The family of the fatally injured driver may have a right to bring a wrongful death action based on evidence of the violation of the statute that prohibits negligent driving while texting. Because a jury found him guilty under the higher burden of proof required in a criminal prosecution, the family would have a strong case to impose liability in a civil lawsuit. The injured passenger would also have a strong case in a personal injury lawsuit.

This tragedy reveals an important practical reality about wrongful death actions. It is impossible to measure the pain and anguish that must have been felt by the fatality victim's family, especially his three children. While a wrongful death claim may not be the family's focus now, the victim's family may have lost their family breadwinner and means of financial support. Although a wrongful death action cannot give these children back the love, guidance and affection of their father, it can provide the financial means to compensate for the loss of family income caused by the tragedy.

If you prematurely lose someone you love or have been injured in a collision with a texting driver, you may have the right to financial compensation for your injuries. Our Atlanta texting and driving accident lawyers are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.