If Pokémon Go makers were sued for encouraging players to trespass, could smartphone makers such as Samsung and Apple be sued for injuries caused by distracted drivers using phone apps? In theory, they could be, but it is more complicated than that.
Long story short, there are multiple open cases filed by consumers against smartphone manufacturers. These cases are still pending, as courts in California and other states have yet to decide whether smartphone makers like Samsung and Apple have a duty to protect the public from injuries and fatalities caused by distracted driving by preventing the use of a smartphone, or at least some of its apps while driving.
Smartphones and the epidemic of distracted driving
Since smartphones have become an integral part of our lives, the number of texting-and-driving and other distracted driving accidents has skyrocketed all across the nation. According to estimations, more than 3,000 Americans are killed and some 430,000 are injured by distracted drivers every year.
“However, that number is most likely significantly higher given that many car accidents caused by distracted driving are underreported or unreported, and it is not always possible to identify driver distraction in motor vehicle collisions,” says our Los Angeles product liability attorney at JML Law.
If you look around, you might notice that the vast majority of people are glued to their smartphones nowadays. They do it out of boredom, for entertainment, communication, to escape awkward face-to-face interactions, and other reasons and purposes. Unfortunately, even driving a vehicle does not stop many people from texting, talking on the phone, browsing their Instagram feed, watching a Facebook video, liking a tweet on Twitter, or being otherwise glued to their smartphone while driving.
Can smartphone makers be sued for causing distracted driving?
Not long ago, Apple was sued by the parents of a child who was killed in a car accident, which was caused by a distracted driver who was using the FaceTime feature on his iPhone while operating his vehicle. In their case, which is still pending in California, the parents are suing Apple for failure to implement a safer alternative design that would prevent users from using the FaceTime feature while driving.
“Despite all the warnings from safety advocates and despite all the federal and state laws making it illegal to use a phone while driving, people keep using their phones while operating a vehicle,” says our Los Angeles car accident attorney. “And it sure seems that this problem is getting worse by the year.”
Nothing seems to be stopping people from distracted driving, which is why many people and safety advocates concluded that holding smartphones liable for failure to prevent users from using certain phone apps may be the only viable solution for this deadly epidemic of distracted driving.
Do phone makers have a duty to prevent the use of apps while driving?
It is not the first time smartphone makers are being urged to lock users out of certain apps while driving. In fact, Apple even patented a design that allows it to prevent users from using certain phone apps while operating a vehicle back in 2008, but the design has never been implemented so far.
A few years ago, Apple was sued in a product liability case for a car accident involving a motorist who caused a crash when checking her text messages. The case is still pending.
In a separate lawsuit, Snap, Inc. is being sued for its speed-recording photo and video feature in Snapchat, which allegedly encouraged drivers to drive at higher speeds and get distracted to earn a Snapshot user “trophy” for driving faster. In a lawsuit, an injured plaintiff alleged that a Snapchat user collided with her vehicle while using Snapchat’s speedometer “filter” to record her going over 100 miles per hour.
Consult with our Los Angeles product liability attorney at JML Law to find out whether or not it makes sense to sue a smartphone maker for injuries caused by a distracted driver using a phone app while driving. Get a free consultation by calling at 818-610-8800.