Snapchatting While Driving: The New Frontier of Social Media Liability

speed driving

Parental concern, law enforcement warnings, and user disapproval of the recent updates to the Snapchat app are the least of the company’s worries. Though Snapchat, Inc. has made the headlines recently due to the updates, this isn’t the first time the company has been under scrutiny from the public. In April of 2016, a complaint for damages was filed in a Georgia state court against the company for injuries sustained from a motor vehicle accident, claiming that the main cause of the accident was the speed filter of the Snapchat app.

The speed filter allows a driver behind the wheel to document his or her speed by “snapping” a picture while the car is in motion. On this one particular night, a teenage driver allegedly opened her Snapchat app while driving as an attempt to snap a picture of her car reaching 100 mph. The driver allegedly, according to the Complaint, accelerated until reaching approximately 107 mph before she realized another driver had pulled onto the road. She crashed into him at full speed. Both cars were totaled, leaving multiple people with tremendous injuries – both physical and psychological – and thousands of dollars in expenses.

The plaintiffs have sued Snapchat for negligence, in part because this is, according to the Complaint, not the first instance in which a Snapchat user has used the speed filter of the app and caused a car crash. Petitions online even called for the app to remove the filter or for the app to restrict the usage of the filter while driving. Despite knowing that the speed filter presented many dangers to the public, as of the date of the incident above, Snapchat had not removed the speed filter, thus creating the perfect opportunity for another distracted driver to cause serious harm.

Distracted driving is extremely dangerous and is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle wrecks and crash fatalities. The Georgia driver was over 18 years old, which means legally she was allowed to hold the phone in her hand, but her alleged negligence – reckless driving at an unsafe speed – combined with the allegedly dangerous incentives Snapchat provides for using the app, proved extremely harmful on this one particular night.

In January, a State Court Judge dismissed the charges against Snapchat, saying that the Communications Decency Act gives the company immunity, but the case is still pending as the family has appealed the decision to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Maybe not DUE TO this incident, but definitely in the time since the incident, Snapchat has disabled the speed filter while the phone is in motion within certain speeds. You decide for yourself, but we think the positive change Snapchat made proves the power of a lawsuit.  Regardless of whether Snapchat would ever be found to be “negligent” by a jury in any courtroom, the company realizes people have been injured while using their app, and has made changes since that will ,hopefully, prevent app users from being distracted while driving.

 

Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured due to motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others.  Ms. Clark was the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and is a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. She has practiced law in Georgia for 29 years and is a Georgia Super Lawyer. Ms. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia, and she is a barrister in the International Society of Barristers.  Robin Frazer Clark~Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.