When the average person uses their smartphone or wears a smartwatch, they probably aren’t thinking of how this technology could make a difference if they were ever involved in a personal injury case.
Surprising as it may seem, however, the devices that you use every day can have a direct impact on the outcome of your case. As Marie Napoli, founding partner at legal firm Napoli Shkolnik explains, technology can do much more than help you make a call to 911.
Gathering Evidence With Mobile Devices
A smartphone is perhaps the most obvious technology tool that can assist in a personal injury case, in large part because most people carry one around with them all the time. In fact, Pew Research now indicates that of the 97 percent of Americans who own a cell phone, 85 percent of Americans own a smartphone.
“Smartphones are obviously helpful when you’re in an emergency situation and need to dial 911,” Napoli notes. “But emergency or not, when you’ve experienced a personal injury, the additional capabilities that come from a smartphone go a long way in collecting evidence that could help your case. Having a smartphone handy makes it easy to take pictures of the accident scene, your injuries, and other damages. They allow you to gather and record data you’ll need later, like the names and contact information of witnesses. This can be especially important for injuries that may not require a police report.”
While a police presence is generally required for car or motorcycle accidents, this is unlikely to be the case for someone who suffers a slip and fall accident at a poorly maintained store. The more documentation you can obtain, the better — and a smartphone allow this to happen.
At the same time, smartphones can impede a plaintiff’s case if they aren’t careful. “Smartphones can serve as a double-edged sword,” warns Napoli. “If the insurance company finds contradictions between what you claim happened and information on your phone, this can completely undercut your case. Even texts to friends or family can be used to invalidate your claim.”
Collect Information Showing What Led to an Accident
Research from the U.S. Department of Justice reveals that roughly 52 percent of all personal injury cases that go to trial are related to motor vehicle accidents, far outpacing other causes for these cases.
However, it is also worth noting that the vast majority of personal injury cases settle before ever going to trial. With an estimated 6 million auto accidents taking place in the United States each year, it is clear there are many instances where one driver’s negligence can have a significant impact on those around them.
“Many drivers have realized the value in installing dash cams in their vehicles, particularly those who drive for a ride-sharing app,” Napoli explains. “The footage collected by a dashcam shows clear, irrefutable evidence detailing the circumstances that contributed to the accident. This protects drivers from fraudulent claims. For example, this video footage can prove that the plaintiff was driving responsibly and that the defendant’s actions alone caused the accident.”
In addition to dash cams, many modern vehicles now include GPS systems, which can confirm key details related to an auto accident, like the direction and speed of travel at the time of the incident.
Demonstrating the Impact On Well-Being
In many personal injury cases, one of the hardest elements of a claim to quantify is a plaintiff’s “pain and suffering” that they experienced as a result of the incident. This term is often used to encompass the non-monetary effects an injury has had on the plaintiff’s life, such as losing the ability to participate in favorite activities or increased anxiety in the wake of the accident.
While lawyers often use medical and psychiatric records, as well as expert testimony, to demonstrate how an injury impacted their client’s well-being, technology once again can provide further evidence to prove — or disprove — these claims.
“Smartwatches and other wearable tech have become a big part of health tracking,” Napoli explains. “People use these devices to count how many steps they walked in a day, monitor their heart rate, and track sleep quality. While this can help improve health on a day-to-day basis, it can also directly reveal how an injury impacted your quality of life after an accident. A heightened heart rate or lost hours of sleep can highlight the extra stress and anxiety a plaintiff experienced. A drastically reduced number of steps can show just how much an injury altered the user’s daily routine.”
As with smartphone data, however, a smartwatch could also be used to prove that a plaintiff didn’t experience extensive suffering from their injuries. If the data recorded by the smartwatch is essentially the same before and after the accident, plaintiffs may have a harder time proving that their routine was dramatically altered.
As in other areas of life, technology offers both positives and negatives in personal injury cases. “While it’s true that technology like driverless cars has created new challenges in pursuing injury claims, the vast majority of these advances can largely serve as a benefit to plaintiffs,” Napoli says.
“Needless to say, this is a trend we expect to continue in the future. Learning to navigate the opportunities and challenges presented by technology will be key to achieving favorable outcomes in personal injury cases and other legal matters. The better we understand tech applications now, the better prepared we’ll be for future advances.”#MobileApps#InternetofThings