The role of manufacturers in texting and driving accidents

Are iPhone manufacturers like Apple responsible if drivers use their phones and end up crashing?

Are phone manufacturers to blame if drivers find themselves in accidents?
October 24, 2016

The danger of texting while driving is complicated by the increasing functionality of smartphones. When drivers depend upon their handheld phones for navigation and other features, they could raise the risk of distraction and possibly cause an accident while in transit. However, a new case brings an interesting wrinkle to this situation by asking: Could the phone manufacturer be liable?

Last month, The New York Times looked at whether or not Apple could implement a "lockout" feature to prevent drivers from using certain aspects of their iPhones while behind the wheel. According to the source, Apple received a grant for this technology in 2014, though it is unclear whether or not the program is actually in development.

Nonetheless, it shows that the company has at least been aware of possible steps it could take to address a cause of accidents. The discovery comes in the context of a 2013 car accident case involving a driver using a phone.

"The New York Times looked at whether or not Apple could implement a 'lockout' feature."

However, even though the court has brought up interesting questions, Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider LLP's technology litigation expert Gail Gottehrer argued that blaming the phone during an accident doesn't make logical sense.

"If you think about it, then you would have manufacturers being responsible for all sorts of distractions," Gottehrer said. "For example, all too often you drive past somebody who's reading a book on the steering wheel. Does that mean that distraction is the source of an accident if it happens, so you would go back and sue the book publisher?"

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