As drivers encounter an increasing number of distractions behind the wheel, Pennsylvania law is adjusting to consider how civil damages should be meted out in motor vehicle accidents. If a recent opinion from a Lawrence County judge is any indication, anyone sending a text message might now be found liable for accidents on Pennsylvania’s roads if they knowingly divert a driver’s attention.

In Gallatin v. Gargiulo, Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas Judge John W. Hodge, in an apparent issue of first impression, allowed negligence and wrongful-death claims to proceed against two men who were texting a female driver who was involved in a fatal accident. The opinion follows a 2013 ruling from a New Jersey appeals court that established for the first time in the country a cause of action against those who knowingly distract drivers by sending text messages.

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