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New Penalties for Texting while Driving

New Kansas law makes texting while driving a punishable offense.

H Sub for SB 300 prohibits a person who is operating a motor vehicle on a public road from texting – using a wireless communication device to write, send, or read a written communication. The bill includes exceptions for law enforcement and emergency service personnel; receiving emergency, traffic, or weather related messages; reporting illegal activity to law enforcement; and using a wireless communications device to make or receive a phone call. Law enforcement will be required to issue a warning citation for violations until January 1, 2011. The fine for unlawful texting will be $60. The law is primary, which means that law enforcement officers may pull over drivers based on this infraction alone.

How might this affect your motor vehicle/personal injury claim? Injured plaintiffs always have been able to sue negligent drivers who hurt them; if the defendant was texting, that is evidence of negligent driving that a jury may consider.

Now, however, if the defendant has paid the fine and pleaded guilty to the charge, it is possible he may be "estopped" from claiming he was not texting. The equitable principle of estoppel prohibits parties to a lawsuit from benefiting themselves by claiming mutually exclusive things at different times, as the need may arise. In other words, a court may prohibit a defendant from denying to a jury that he was texting, if he has already pleaded guilty to the crime.

If you have been injured by a negligent motorist who you believe may have been texting while driving, speak to a personal injury attorney immediately about your claim and how you should proceed.