Are Phone Companies Responsible For Reckless Choices?

appleYou know the situation: you’re driving, and you hear that familiar ding of a text message coming from your phone. It’s a tantalizing sound, and you wonder what the message could be. A compliment from your boss, a sweet message from your significant other, a question from your child? Still, you know that no message is worth the risk, and you wait to check your phone until you’re safely home.

Unfortunately, many people do not make the right decision. When they hear that text message, call, or Facetime come through, many people can’t resist. When this happens, their momentary distraction can cause a serious accident. In these situations, the driver is obviously making a reckless choice. Arguably, however, these accidents would not occur if it weren’t for phones. Shouldn’t phone companies be held responsible, too, for causing the distraction in the first place?

A Fatal Choice

A Texas family believes so, and with good reason. In 2014, the family of four was traveling near Dallas when another driver slammed into the back of their vehicle at full speed. Their five-year-old daughter sustained fatal injuries. The other driver was using Facetime, an iPhone app which allows users to chat face-to-face. While the driver was charged with manslaughter, the family is also suing Apple, the iPhone’s manufacturer.

According to their lawsuit, Apple contributed to the fatal crash since the Facetime app does not automatically prevent people from using Facetime while driving. With built-in technology, iPhones are capable of determining a user’s speed during time of use. Yet, apps like Facetime do not automatically lock when a user is in motion. The lawsuit argues that Apple’s failure to use this technology is negligent.

This is not the first time an app or company has been scrutinized for its involvement in a car accident. Snapchat, an image sharing app, has been criticized for its “MPH” filter, which some argue encourages drivers to travel at excessive speeds. Similarly, Pokémon Go, a virtual reality gaming app, has also been cited as a factor in various distracted driving crashes. Both apps, and others like them, have a disclaimer message that warns users to not drive while using the app. However, like Facetime, they do not automatically shut off when a user is driving. While a disclaimer may be enough to protect the companies in the event of a fatal crash, families of victims argue that companies like Apple and Samsung could do more.

The Lawsuit

Apple has not yet issued on a statement on the recent lawsuit. It’s likely, however, that Apple will argue that the driver, not the app, is fully responsible for the crash. He knew the dangers of distracted driving, yet chose to Facetime and drive anyway. While phones create distraction, the choice to cave into that distraction is ultimately the choice of the driver.

What do you think? Are phone manufacturers liable for accidents? Or is it up to the individual driver to resist the temptation of technology?


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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