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Lawsuit seeks to hold Apple accountable for distracted driving

Federal data suggests that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. Many distracted driving accidents in Texas have involved motorists who were looking at smartphone screens instead of the road ahead. A class-action lawsuit filed against Apple accuses the smartphone leader of not doing enough to protect road users from the menace of distracted drivers.

Apple was granted a patent in 2014 for a feature that prevents drivers from using iPhones to send or receive text messages, but the manufacturing giant has chosen not to make the feature available. Plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed against Apple want the company to include the texting lockout feature on all of their new devices and allow those who have already purchased iPhones to be able to get an update.

More than a quarter of all U.S. car accidents involve a distracted driver, according to the National Safety Council, and the Department of Transportation says that about 1.5 million American motorists are texting while driving at any given daylight moment. Apple has also been sued over the unused safety feature by the parents of a 5-year-old girl who was killed in an accident caused by a distracted driver.

When manufacturers are sued by car accident victims, the lawsuits are generally based on product liability arguments. This is important because punitive damages can be awarded in product liability cases. When punitive damages are awarded, the court is both sending a message and issuing a firm rebuke against the negligent party. In a product liability case, a personal injury attorney may urge a defendant to settle matters quietly rather than face the uncertainties of a civil trial.

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