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Lawsuit Claims Apple Liable for Distracted Driving


Accident Caused by Distracted Driver Using FaceTime

A lawsuit filed in California has put another twist on the national discussion on distracted driving. The question is, in part, is Apple responsible for death or injury to motorists because they offer technologies such as FaceTime that allow users to have face to face conversations on their phones? More specifically, should Apple be held responsible when they have the technology that would shut down this application when used by a driver, but failed to install it in their iPhone 6?

In the California lawsuit, a family claims that Apple’s FaceTime app caused their child’s death. The tragic loss of their child occurred in Texas, but Apple is headquartered in Santa Clara County, California where the suit was filed. In the crash, the family’s vehicle was stopped and was rear-ended by a distracted driver. The distracted driver was using the FaceTime app at the time of the collision. The vehicle was struck so intensely that the children in the back of the vehicle were severely injured. Their daughter lost her life from the injuries she sustained.

The family’s lawsuit claims Apple could have avoided this tragedy had it installed the patented ability to warn or to shut down this feature while driving. The patent for a driver device lock-out could have prevented their daughter’s death. This ability is made possible by the GPS systems in the phone which can determine a driver’s movement and speed and cause FaceTime to be disabled. They claim that because Apple did not include this technology in the iPhone 6 which was being used at the time of the collision, they are responsible for the loss of their child’s life.

The question in the case against Apple will be important for both tech companies and users. In short, should Apple be held liable for injury and death to FaceTime users given that the company sought and was issued a patent for a lock out feature that would stop drivers from using FaceTime?

The California lawsuit comes at a time when that state has enacted a new law that totally prohibits drivers from holding cell phones in their vehicles. Drivers must either use the systems that are built-in to their vehicles, or they must have their phone in a cradle. They cannot hold the phone for any reason. There are few exceptions. Georgia law is not quite so stringent. Our state prohibits texting, but allows talking on cell phones while driving. California has long prohibited both of these and has required blue tooth for drivers. The new prohibition may be the most stringent in the country.

Georgia Law Prohibits Texting While Driving

In May 2016, WRBL reported that Georgia law enforcement was ramping up to stop distracted driving. The problem of distracted driving has continued to cause serious injuries and deaths on our roads and highway. It is estimated that in 2015, about three quarters of the nearly 1500 fatal accidents in Georgia were caused by distracted driving. Often those most harmed or killed in these crashes were not distracted. Rather, another driver who was driving distracted caused many of these accidents. Georgia law enforcement has been working to stop this dangerous activity. Although our laws permit talking on a cell phone, texting is not permitted. And drivers under 18 are not allowed to use a cell phone in a motor vehicle that is moving, period.

Scholle Law is here to help those injured by distracted driving. We represent victims of accidents caused by another person or entity, whether that person is driving a car, truck or other vehicle. We offer complimentary evaluations that involve talking with you about what happened and advising on whether you have a case that could be brought against another driver or entity that could provide money and medical support to you for your injuries. We also represent families of those injured or those who have lost their lives in accidents. This is called a wrongful death action and can be brought by close relatives of the victim, such as the child in the California case we have shared here.