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Can apps like Snapchat have some liability in car crash cases?

May 11, 2021 | Firm News

This question is moving forward in a recent case. The case involves a group of teenage boys that were traveling at rapid speeds down rural roadways. While reaching speeds of over 120 mph, one of the boys opened up a filter on Snapchat to document real-life speed. Shortly after, the boys crashed.

All three teenagers died.

The parents claim that Snapchat is at least partially responsible for the accident. Afterall, they argue, if the speed filter didn’t exist the boys would not have been tempted to try it out. To some, the argument may seem like a stretch. To others, it provides an opportunity to hold apps that encourage dangerous behavior accountable when things go wrong.

More importantly, to a federal appeals court, the argument is fair.

Why is this case important?

Because it appears to be one of the first of its kind to move forward. In the past, whenever someone has tried to hold a tech company legally accountable for an accident that results in connection to using the tech, the courts have thrown the case out. This one has survived that initial round of challenges and is moving forward. This could be a huge step forward for those injured or who lose loved ones due to poor decisions made by tech companies, like choosing to design and promote the use of the speed filter noted above.

What does this mean for future of these types of claims?

It could go a number of directions. First, the case could get challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court. That court may agree to hear the case or not, may rule in favor of the victims or not. It may even call on Congress to address the issue by passing a law specific to this problem.

The key takeaway: these types of cases are not always as clear cut as they may seem. What at first glance may seem like a couple of teenagers making bad choices may really be something more. This provides an opportunity to hold that “something more” accountable and reduce the risk of similar tragic accidents in the future.