Car Accidents Caused by Snapchat: Who’s Liable?

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Snapchat, the popular social media outlet, is expected to break 200 million users in 2016. Most of these are people between the ages of 14 and 21. How does the popular “speed filter” affect these young people who lack mature judgement and are still learning to drive? Snapchat is already causing accidents around the country.

A man recently filed a lawsuit against both a teenage driver and the social media giant for negligence. The ruling could set a precedent for the extent of liability apps have for their users’ actions.

Christal McGee is an 18-year old from Georgia who was driving at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour when she collided with Wentworth Maynard, who was driving the opposite direction. Maynard suffered a traumatic brain injury and suffers daily pain as a result of the accident, according to his attorney. McGee took a more cavalier view of her injuries: shortly after the accident, she Snapchatted a picture of herself strapped to a gurney with the caption: “lucky to be alive.”

The Speed Filter Argument

Maynard’s lawsuit alleges that McGee was using a speed filter, which is a lens that clocks the speed of vehicles. According to the plaintiff’s lawyer, she and her friends were pushing the car to higher speeds in order to win a “trophy,” or an in-app badge users can win after completing certain tasks. The social media giant retaliated, saying it’s never awarded trophies for speeding. Further, Snapchat maintains that it actively discourages distracted driving by posting messages to never snap and drive within the app itself.

Since the incident, Snapchat issued a statement encouraging their users to realize that no Snap is worth their safety. But is it too little too late?

A Possible Liability Precedent

An accident reconstruction from the plaintiff estimates that McGee’s car was traveling 107 miles per hour when it drifted out of the lane and into Maynard’s vehicle. But the investigation has been slow, particularly because of conflicting evidence. The Lovejoy police department reported that Maynard may have also committed a moving violation during the course of the accident by failing to signal before changing lanes. If this is true, he is partially at fault for the accident.

In June, a warrant for McGee’s arrest was issued. She faces felony charges for serious injury by driving, reckless driving, and super speeding.

The case has become high profile, both as an example of the dangers associated of distracted driving and its potential to set a legal precedent for other cases involving social media. Incidents like these make some wonder if distracted driving should be punishable in the same way as driving under the influence.

But teens aren’t the only one Snapchatting and driving. Rap producer DJ Khaled was reportedly Snapchatting when he crashed his Ferrari.

What’s the Likely Outcome of Maynard’s Case?

It’s difficult to predict how Maynard’s case will play out in court. Since the police have already brought McGee in for felony charges, it likely won’t be hard to prove to a jury that she committed negligence. But if Maynard is found guilty of committing a moving violation, it will affect the amount he’ll be able to collect in damages.

The accident happened in Georgia, which is a comparative fault state. In comparative fault states, plaintiffs are awarded damages minus their percentage of assigned fault. For example, if he’s awarded $1 million in damages and is found to be 10% at fault, he’ll only be able to collect $900,000.

As for Snapchat’s portion of the lawsuit, it’s hard to know for certain. Only time will tell if the social media giant will be held liable for its speed filter.

Scott Liljegren is a top San Diego car accident attorney– if you’ve been injured in a car accident sue to someone else’s negligence, contact Liljegren Law Group today.