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Lawsuit filed against Apple by distracted driving victims

Distracted driving accidents on North Carolina roadways cause many injuries each year, and the National Safety Council says that texting while driving plays a role in about 26 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the United States. The success of the iPhone has allowed Apple to earn the business of 40 percent of American smartphone buyers, but that market dominance could come at a cost if a group of California residents prevail in a class action lawsuit filed against the company.

The lawsuit alleges that Apple made distracted driving crashes more likely by not releasing a feature that prevents motorists from using iPhones to write or read text messages while behind the wheel. The plaintiffs claim that Apple developed the technology as long ago as 2008 and protected it with a patent in 2014, but they say that the cellphone safety feature has never been offered to iPhone users. The lawsuit accuses Apple of putting road users in danger to prevent smartphone buyers from choosing devices made by its competitors.

The plaintiffs were all injured in car accidents that were blamed on distracted drivers, but Apple's attorneys will likely argue that their client is not directly liable because of the intervening behavior of the drivers involved. However, the data supporting the claims made by the plaintiffs could be difficult to explain if the court rejects this argument.

These kinds of lawsuits are often resolved during negotiations as defendants seek to protect their reputations and brand names. Plaintiffs attorneys with experience in product liability cases may understand that companies will often agree to a favorable settlement if the terms are required to be kept confidential.

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