Technology and Your Personal Injury Case: Friend or Foe?

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By Marcus Fernandez

Not long ago, photos of your car accident scene might have been unlikely unless someone with a camera happened to be on-site at the time of the crash. Smartphone cameras have made it possible for accident victims to take photos and videos that could be invaluable in proving a negligence claim against another party. Today, those photos along with statements you post on social media may become evidence the defense can use against you. Technology can play a central role in your personal injury case. That’s why it’s important to avoid using it in a way that hurts compensation claims.

Proving facts in a Florida personal injury case

The saying goes that there are two sides to every story. Nowhere is this more evident than in a motor vehicle collision, slip-and-fall accident, or other personal injuries. Attorneys for both parties, the injured plaintiff and the defendant accused of being at fault, rely on evidence to prove their case. It can convince a judge or a jury that their client’s version of the story is what actually occurred.

State law recognizes that gathering evidence is central in determining fact from fiction in civil lawsuits. Liberal discovery rules allow each party to discover and use evidence to prove their case. In today’s modern society, that includes evidence derived through technology.

Wearable technology

The smartwatch you wear may play a key role in the success or failure of your personal injury lawsuit. Wearable devices, including smartwatches and fitness trackers, enable wearers to monitor and maintain a wealth of data about themselves, including:

  • Physical location
  • Heart rate
  • Rate of respiration
  • Speed of movement

Wearables have increased in popularity, with 56.7 million adults estimated to be using them. Their widespread use raises serious implications in personal injury cases. Data collected through these applications can be used in personal injury cases by both the injured party and defense. Instead of relying only on client testimony, lawyers may support their claim with data collected and stored from wearable devices.

Of course, data collected through a wearable may prove equally as helpful to the defense. For instance, an attorney may use data from a wearable to refute a claim that an injury has caused limited physical activity. For example, GPS-enabled wearables can show the speed at which a person moves. So a person claiming that they can no longer run like these used to could be undone by data showing them moving at a fast pace. Additionally, a corresponding increase in respiration and heart rate could further support the claim.

An explosion in smartphone ownership

Smartphone ownership has more than doubled in just eight years, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. The first survey conducted in 2011 showed that only 35% of Americans had upgraded from a cellphone to smartphone technology. A recent follow-up survey shows that 81% now have a smartphone.

Your smartphone can be an invaluable tool for collecting evidence when you suffer an injury because of someone’s negligence. The digital camera feature of your phone allows you to preserve the scene with photographs and videos. You no longer have to rely on your memory to recall vehicle positions at the car accident scene. You can also provide photographic evidence to illustrate what substance caused your slip and fall at the local supermarket.

Your phone’s GPS feature can also help support your claim. Your accident injury might make it difficult for you to recall the exact location where the incident occurred. The GPS feature on your phone pinpoints the precise location of the accident without requiring you to remember street names or intersecting roads. It can also show distances traveled and the route you took from your original destination. In doing so, GPS helps recreate the path to the location of the accident.

Texting is a problem in more ways than one

In Florida, texting while driving is a now primary offense. We still see, however, dangerous habits where smartphones divert driver attention from the road. When a negligent or distracted driver is believed to have caused the accident, smartphone data prove or refute the claim. Cellphone data can show whether a person was talking or texting on the device. Your attorney can request these records from the cellular service provider.

You should be cautious about the information you choose to text, as it could hurt your injury claim. The text messages you send to friends or family can be subject to a defense subpoena. A text about how the accident happened, or the extent of your injuries, that conflicts with other statements could become evidence for the defense.

What you post on social media may hurt you

The vast majority, 69%, of American adults post on Facebook. Instagram users account for 37% of adults with other social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and WhatsApp holding smaller shares of the social-media pie.

The messages, photos and videos you share on social media may become evidence in a personal injury case. For example, it’s not uncommon for users to post pictures engaging in strenuous physical activities while on vacation. But, those photos could become evidence if the person posting them claimed disability or limited activities due to an accident. The same holds true about posts containing details of a crash or the progress of a person’s recovery from the injuries suffered in it.

Use technology with caution following an accident

There is no doubt that technology has changed the way we live and impacts our daily lives. But, it’s essential to understand that technology can become a detriment if you do not use it wisely and with discretion. If you have been in an accident, make sure to work with an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney who understands the intricacies of available evidence. Make sure to ask your lawyer about posting to social media, using wearables or your smartphone following an accident.