February 20, 2017
Can Social Media Companies be Liable for Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is an epidemic in the United States, in part due to the rise of smartphones and mobile apps. We are constantly connected to our friends and family, our email, and our social media accounts and this constant connectivity brings about a sense of urgency for many people when it comes to communication. For example, when someone sends a text message, they often expect almost an instantaneous response, otherwise, they may get upset. Even if some drivers know how dangerous it is to use their phones while they are behind the wheel, they may not be able to resist reading or sending a text or updating a social media profile at that very moment.
Many accidents have occurred in recent years because drivers were distracted by social media. When a crash happens, any injured victims can file a claim against the distracted driver to recover for their personal injuries and losses. The question can then arise: can the social media company also be held liable for someone using their app while driving? While this may seem far-fetched, a recent case examined this exact issue.
Recent Court Decision
This case revolves around a quite controversial filter on the app Snapchat. When the “speed filter” is used while you are moving, Snapchat will track your speed and will display it on your “snap.” One driver has been accused of using the speed filter while she was driving1 to try to get it to read over 100 miles per hour. The alleged combination of distraction and dangerous speed caused her to crash into another operated by an Uber driver. The car accident victim suffered brain damage and was in a coma for five weeks.
The victim then sued the distracted driver, who admits to speeding but denies using Snapchat at that time. Snapchat also denies that the app was being used on her phone at the time of the crash. Despite these claims, the case against the driver is pending and she is facing felony charges of causing serious injury by a vehicle and reckless driving, among others.
The plaintiff also filed a lawsuit against Snapchat, claiming that the company was negligent in providing the potentially dangerous speed filter. However, the judge hearing the case recently dismissed the claim against Snapchat.2 While the app does seem to encourage speeding, the company does have a warning on the filter advising people not to use it for this purpose while driving. This case sets one of the first precedents that social media companies will not be found liable for users engaging in distracted driving while using their apps.
Social Media can still Serve as Important Evidence in Your Case
Even if social media companies may not have to compensate car accident victims, social media can help serve as evidence in a personal injury case against a driver. In order to recover for your injuries, you must sufficiently prove that the driver was engaging in some type of negligent behavior that caused the crash – such as distracted driving. To prove negligence, you must provide evidence to the court of the driver’s actions.
It can be challenging to prove distracted driving because distraction is a mental state. Unless a driver readily admits to using a phone or otherwise being distracted – which is not surprisingly very rare – you must find another way to prove their mental state at the time of a crash.
An experienced car accident lawyer will know how to conduct a thorough investigation to collect any possible evidence of distraction. This can include researching any texts that were received or sent or any updates to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or other social media sites just before the crash occurs. If such evidence can be obtained, it can be very persuasive to a jury and may result in a favorable settlement offer.
Discuss Your Rights with a Skilled Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer
Holding distracted drivers responsible for your injury-related losses is not always an easy task. At The Levin Firm, we regularly represent clients in distracted driving cases and have many resources to prove your claim. Please call (215) 825-5183 for a free consultation today.