I was recently involved in a minor traffic accident in a work vehicle in which I was the only person in my vehicle and there were no injuries with me or in the vehicle I hit. Is it legal for my company to demand my cell phone records or my urine test? Thanks.
Ann Kiernan replies:
Generally, post-accident drug testing is legal. In fact, it is mandatory in some circumstances. For instance, if you were driving a commercial vehicle, and the car you hit had to be towed away, federal law mandates testing, even if no one was hurt.
As for cell phone records, it is now standard procedure in personal injury matters to obtain the cell phone records of the opposing party in cases involving motor vehicle accidents. Obviously, if an injured person can establish that the driver was talking, texting, or otherwise using the phone at the time of the accident, there is powerful evidence that the driver was distracted. I think your situation is analogous.
In fact, there was a recent case where the appellate court held that sender of a text can be liable if an accident is caused because the driver was distracted by the texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would read the text while driving and thus be distracted. Kubert v. Best, 432 N.J. Super. 495 (App.Div. 2013) In that case, a man and his wife were out for a motorcycle ride. As they came around a curve, a pick-up truck driven by an 18-year-old man crossed the double center line and hit them. The pick-up driver called 9-1-1 at 15 seconds after 5:49 p.m., which was 17 seconds after he had sent a text to a 17-year-old girl who had been texting with him most of the day. She had last texted him 25 seconds before that. The husband and wife each lost their left legs as a result of the accident, and sued both the driver and the girl. They settled their claims against the driver for the maximum under his insurance policy, but the case against the girl was dismissed, because she was not in the truck and there was no evidence that she knew that her texting partner was driving during their exchanges.
Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.