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Is Apple at Fault When a Driver Causes a Crash While FaceTiming?

Distracted driving is a major public health risk. Drivers use their phones to talk and use apps while driving, which takes their focus away from the road. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that eight people die and 1,161 people get hurt daily in auto accidents that are caused by drivers who are distracted by their phones and other devices. 

When a distracted driver causes a collision to occur, the driver can be held liable for resulting losses. An attorney can provide representation to victims in pursuing a case.

One big question that arises is whether the tech company that made the phone or app can also be held liable if they don't stop drivers from using the device while driving. This question is coming up again as a result of a lawsuit reported on by the Washington Post in which a family is suing Apple for the death of their five-year-old daughter.

Can Apple be Held Legally Responsible Because it Doesn't Disable FaceTime for Drivers?

The family who has brought a lawsuit against Apple was in their Camry on a highway shortly before Christmas several years ago. They had to bring their car to a stop because of obstacles on the road in front of them. The driver behind them was on FaceTime and didn't see them so he hit their car at full force with his SUV. This left all four family members injured. The injuries sustained by the young daughter eventually led to her death.

The family believes Apple should be held accountable for damages and should be made to pay for their loss because Apple could have disabled FaceTime for drivers traveling at highway speeds but chose not to do that. Apple, on the other hand, argues that it is actually the responsibility of the driver to make safe choices about phone use. The company claims it shouldn't have an obligation to disable an app while someone is in the car.

It may actually be impractical for companies like Apple to impose a lock-out feature, although Apple has filed for a patent on lockout technologies that could work to stop a driver from using their phone. It could be impractical because current technology cannot distinguish between whether a phone user is driving, is a passenger in a car, or is on a train or some other kind of public transportation. Apple cannot just shut off the apps of passengers and public transportation users.

The case must unfold before the court to determine Apple's liability. New York Times reported on one past case where a phone company was sued after a car accident but the lawsuit was dismissed because the car maker was found to have no relationship with crash victims and because the crash wasn't found to be foreseeable. That case was back in 2003 and distracted driving has become a much issue since then, so things may have changed. The case against Apple should be monitored carefully to see how the claims are treated in court.

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