One family's life was shattered by a tragic car accident that occurred when a driver chose to use FaceTime while driving his SUV. The family is pursing a claim against Apple now, claiming the tech company could have prevented the tragic accident if they disabled a driver's ability to use FaceTime while traveling at highway speeds. The case, which was reported on by the Washington Post, will be an important one to watch in order to determine what responsibility tech companies have moving forward in the future.
The lawsuit against Apple was filed by a family whose five-year-old daughter was killed shortly before Christmas. Because the driver of the SUV was using FaceTime, he didn't see that the family had stopped their car because of obstacles in front of them on the road. He hit their car at full speed, trapping the father and daughter inside and also injuring the mother and another child. Both the father and daughter had to be removed from the car, and while the father lived, the daughter died.
The family believes Apple is responsible for this because they have the technology to lock out a driver from using an app while driving but have chosen not to use it. In fact, Apple does have a patent for lockout technology. However, the company does not use it to stop drivers from using apps, and other cell phone companies also don't stop people from using their phone while driving.
One big reason the technology isn't used is because it cannot detect whether someone is a passenger, a driver, or a person on public transportation like a train or a bus. It would be unfair and impractical to stop everyone who is in a moving vehicle from using their phone. Apple also believes that it is the driver's responsibility to behave in a way that prevents crashes from happening, not the tech company's obligation to stop them.
Past cases in which crash victims have tried to hold tech companies accountable for distracted driving crashes have not been very effective. Back in 2003, for example, a crash victim tried to sue Cingular but New York Times reports that the case was dismissed because of a lack of relationship between Cingular and the victim and because the crash was not foreseeable.
Today, the risks of distracted driving accidents are well-known, and it is clear distraction has become a major cause of motor vehicle crashes. Still, it remains uncertain Apple or any other tech company could be liable if a driver causes a crash while using their products since these companies may not have a relationship with, or obligation to, victims. Victims who do get hurt in distracted driving crashes should talk with a lawyer about holding the driver who hurt them accountable, regardless of whether a tech company can be blamed or not.