Are You Texting Employees on the Road?
Your church may be liable if an accident happens.
Are You Texting Employees on the Road?

The mere act of sending a text to another person does not create liability, even if the texter knows that the recipient is operating a motor vehicle. People often receive text messages while driving a vehicle, and choose not to read or respond to them. Texter liability arises only when the texter knows that:

  • the recipient is in the process of operating a motor vehicle, and
  • knows or has special reason to know that the recipient is likely to read the text message while driving.

How can one who sends a text message know that the recipient is operating a motor vehicle, and is likely to read the text message while driving? Consider the following:

  • [A] court explained this critical component of liability as follows: "When the sender has actual knowledge or special reason to know from prior texting experience or otherwise, that the recipient will view the text while driving, the sender has breached a duty of care to the public by distracting the driver." According to this language, a text message sender may know from "prior texting experience or otherwise" that a recipient will view a text while driving.
  • One way to prove that the sender of a text message knows, or should know, that the recipient is likely to read the text message while operating a motor vehicle is if a conversation occurs with multiple messages and responses. So long as the sender knows that the recipient is operating a motor vehicle, then the sender's participation in a multi-message conversation with the recipient will demonstrate that the sender knows that the recipient is reading the messages while driving.
  • In some text messaging conversations the recipient will acknowledge, directly or indirectly, that he or she is in the process of operating a motor vehicle.
  • A staff member who sends a text message to another staff member may know the recipient is engaged in operating a motor vehicle as a result of scheduling. That is, if the recipient is driving to a scheduled appointment, then the time of departure and the time of the appointment ordinarily will indicate if the recipient was driving at the time of the text messaging.
  • In the case of cell-phone conversations, the fact that the person receiving the call is driving often can be established by traffic noise, poor or variable reception, and scheduling.

Excerpted from Church Law & Tax ReportLiability for Calling Church Employees on Their Cell Phones."

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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