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Personal injury attorneys are showing a strong interest in Snapchat, the instant messaging app -- particularly in the app's filters. No, it's not because lawyers want to transform their face into a dog or use geofilters and location tags.
Rather, it's because the app, especially its "speed filter" feature, could be contributing to distracted driving and serious car accidents. And now plenty of lawyers are asking clients if Snapchat may have been involved in their accidents.
Snapchat allows you to send photos and messages that will disappear after being viewed. And it's incredibly popular, with more than 100 million active users, many of them young people. The impermanence of images on the app is part of what draws users too it; you see a photo and then, poof, it's gone. But so too are the app's filters, which allow users to add place-specific graphics to images or take a video of themselves puking rainbows.
But the "speed filter" shows how fast a user is moving when they take a photo with the app. You could use the speed filter to show that you're stuck in traffic or that you're flying in a helicopter at 200 miles per hour.
That speed filter may encourage reckless driving, personal injury attorneys worry, while the "see it now or never" nature of the app could lead to increased distraction behind the wheel.
Abusing Snapchat's filter is just what teenager Christal McGee is accused of doing. McGee was apparently using Snapchat's speed filter when driving her father's Mercedes down a suburban Atlanta road at 107 mph, nearly twice the legal speed limit. That is, until she ran into Wentworth Maynard's car, putting him into a coma and resulting in permanent brain injury.
Now Maynard is suing both McGee and Snapchat. According to Maynard's lawsuit, "Snapchat's speed filter facilitated McGee's excessive speeding. McGee was motivated to drive at an excessive speed in order to obtain recognition through Snapchat by the means of a Snapchat 'trophy.'"
Maynard's case is the first speed filter-related suit against Snapchat to get widespread media attention. But it might not be the last. According to CNN, PI attorneys are already all onboard the anti-Snapchat bandwagon.
Attorneys are targeting Snapchat-related accidents with blog posts and web pages, CNN reports, asking, "Is Snapchat causing car accident deaths?" and offering free consultations for those injured by someone "texting or playing with Snapchat."
For many, Snapchat could offer a way to recover from accidents where the offending driver is underinsured or unable to pay.
In places like Clayton County, where Maynard's accident occurred, most drivers have only the minimum required insurance coverage of $25,000, CNN notes. Snapchat, meanwhile, was recently valued at $16 billion.