Who is at Fault for Snapchatting While Driving?

Seven Georgia attorneys recently represented a case where the plaintiff’s family wanted to sue Snapchat. Snapchat added a speed filter feature that makes it possible for drivers to snap photos of themselves while driving at fast speeds. While full-time Uber driver Wentworth Maynard and his wife, Karen Maynard, were pulling out of their apartment complex in 2015, they collided with 18-year old Christal McGee. McGee intentionally increased her driving speed in order for the Snapchat speed filter to reach above 100 mph.

As a result of this accident, Maynard suffered from severe brain injuries that continue to affect him to this day. The lawsuit puts both Snapchat and McGee, who smashed her father’s 10-year old Mercedes into Maynard’s Mitsubishi, at fault. In the event that this case reaches a jury, courts will be forced to determine the line between corporate and personal responsibility.

This case will be challenging for courts for a variety of reasons. First off, McGee and her three friends that were riding in her vehicle at the time of the crash believe that Maynard cut across two lanes of traffic to get in the fast lane. Additionally, her friends had different remarks on other issues.

One friend stated that McGee was in fact going over 100 mph while another disclosed that she was actually only driving 60-65 mph in a 55 mph zone. Two friends reveal that McGee was playing with the Snapchat app during the collision and one states she was not. McGee’s father also informed the media that his daughter was not using Snapchat and is not at fault.

It’s important to note that this case highlights that Snapchat and other app inventors may now be seen as easy targets for victims and the attorneys that represent them. Yik Yak, an Atlanta dating app has recently been blamed for allowing anonymous comments that may be hurtful or offensive. A woman from Georgia also sued an online dating site for pairing her with a match who was a sexual predator.

Law professors with an expertise in product liability had a tough time thinking about cases such as the Snapchat one that are not correlated with distracted driving. Robert Rabin, a professor at Stanford University law school explained that the Snapchat case has major ramifications. The main question in the Snapchat lawsuit is whether app makers should be responsible for implementing safety measures to aid in the prevention of product misuse.

Snapchat explained that the company discourages users from playing with the speed filter during driving by displaying a warning message on the app that reads “do not snap and drive.” Unfortunately, the warning was only shown in March of 2016, a year after the incident occurred and only pops up if the speed is greater than 15 mph.

After his daughter passed away due to an accident that involved a distracted driver, personal injury attorney, Joel Feldman launched a non-profit known as EndDD.org to bring awareness to and prevent distracted driving. He wondered why an app that encourages smartphone usage during driving was ever invented in the first place.

There are a number of social media apps causing car accidents including Instagram. It will be interesting to see if these apps continue to encourage users to participate in activities while they are behind the wheel of a vehicle. Most would hope that Snapchat and Instagram would find a way to discourage users from using the app while driving.

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