Texting Fraught With Legal Implications, Expert Says

(CBS) – Some of us text all day long, but think about this: It could get you in a whole lot of legal trouble.

As CBS 2’s Lionel Moise explains, we all need to be careful of what we type — and when we type it.

Pretty much everyone does it. But sending a quick text may have legal consequences you’ve never considered.

In a Pennsylvania court case, two men are being sued for negligence because they sent texts to a driver who then got into a fatal accident.

In New Jersey, a court concluded that a text sender could be held liable if he knew the receiver was driving and would be distracted.

Safety advocates like the idea of more accountability.

We’ve got to take a strong stand on texting. We’re seeing thousands of people dying due to distraction on the roadways every year,” says Debbie Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

Others have different views.

“I’m the one that should be saying yes or no — should I receive that text right now. Therefore, whoever is texting me shouldn’t be responsible,” Anya Drake says.

How could someone be held responsible for distracting a driver?

“There is some evidence that if you know someone is driving and will be distracted that you should be liable,” says Harold Krent, dean of the Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Liability could be hard to prove, he says.

“Distraction can come in all forms and sizes. You can be distracted when you’re driving by what someone says in a telephone call,” he says.

In Massachusetts, another case is determining whether accepting an offer via text is a binding real-estate agreement.

Real estate agent Grigory Pekarsky exchanges texts with clients like Ethan Van der Heide all the time.

“I’ll text him because I know he’s at work,” Pekarsky says. “’Hey, Ethan, this new property came up, you got to take a look at  it, we should go see it ASAP.’”

In fact, Van der Heide said yes to buying a Logan Square condo in a text message.

“I think it’s actually kind of a good thing that as we use it more for professional communication,” he says.

Krent, the legal expert, says a text as a binding contract will become mainstream.

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