Secondary liability a possibility for people who distract drivers with messages

Published: April 24, 2018

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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We understand that distracted driving has legal and insurance implications for drivers, but what about the person who is distracting them? Is a client on the hook if they message a driver and the driver then crashes? These are interesting questions and a senior claims executive at Travelers predicts secondary liability on people who send message that distract drivers could come to Canadian law.

“If I text someone while driving, and they get into an accident, I could be responsible for part of that,” said Jordan Solway, group general counsel and vice president of claims at Travelers. “Beyond that…if you are driving a vehicle, your employer has vicarious liability for damage caused [by you as a driver] to a third party [in an accident].”

Solway was speaking at the EverySecondMatters event, a panel discussion held in Toronto on Monday and hosted by the Travelers Institute.

Travelers discussed an online survey it commissioned carried out by The Harris Poll. The study took the responses of over 900 Canadian participants and found 37 per cent of drivers still use a mobile device while driving. It is also likely that many more do but are not willing to admit it. 31 per cent of respondents say they feel compelled to use a device to manage family obligations. 14 per cent said the same about work obligations.

Solway says Canadians laws already facilitate secondary liabilities on employers who increase risk of collision by contacting their employees. However, he believes this law could extend to everybody and not just be limited to employers.