Car accident victims sue Apple over smartphone safety feature

Distracted driving accidents have become far more common on New York roadways as smartphones have become increasingly ubiquitous. A U.S. Department of Transportation study indicates that as many as 1.5 million American drivers are looking at cellphone screens at any given moment during the day, and NHTSA researchers have concluded that motorists who text are about six times more dangerous to other road users than those who drive after drinking.

Electronics manufacturers and software developers have been asked by government agencies and road safety groups to develop features that would make distracted driving more difficult, and a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of California accident victims against Apple has revealed that the company received a patent for just such a feature in 2014. The lawsuit calls on Apple to release its texting lockout feature and make it available to those who already have iPhones.

Apple has also been sued over its decision to not release the feature by the parents of a young girl who lost her life in a distracted driving accident, and both cases will likely hinge on arguments over foreseeability and corporate responsibility. The figures suggest that a loss in court could be ruinous for Apple. The company's iPhone controls about 40 percent of the American smartphone market, and the National Safety Council says that texting and driving plays a role in about one in four automobile accidents in the United States.

Experienced personal injury attorneys may encourage the defendants in cases such as those filed against Apple to avoid protracted litigation by settling quickly and discreetly. When the products used by millions of Americans are linked with accidents and injuries, the resulting flood of lawsuits can ruin brand names and wreak havoc on market shares.

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