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How Smartphones Have Changed Car Accidents for Injury Lawyers

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 20, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Chances are you have a tool in your possession that has fundamentally changed how law is practiced, particularly in the area of gathering evidence: your smartphone.

Cell phones and their recording abilities have completely changed the game. We no longer have to rely on dubious eyewitness accounts of what happened. Now, lawyers don't need to rely on equally dubious accident reports. If you have an auto injury case on your hands, you should be asking your client a simple question first: "Did you take pictures?"

Cell Phone Recording Evidence

Thankfully, PI attorneys handling auto injury cases now have the possible option of turning to cell phone recordings of accidents -- sometimes even as they take places as is common in Russia. In that country, people do not feel they can rely on the integrity of law enforcement so the dash cam is an added bit of security to them. This is only one of the more grim reasons people rely on electronic recordings. And in America, it's usually up to the smartphone.

Admissibility of Cell Phone Pictures and Videos

One way that smartphones are disrupting law in the courtroom is through admissibility. Pictures and recordings will usually be greenlit for admission because they're relevant both legally and factually.

In general, people in public spaces enjoy no reasonable expectation of privacy. That is why people involved in accidents cannot usually protest someone taking their picture in the street. The general rules regarding people's voices is a little different. Generally, you must have consent of all parties in a "private conversation" before you can record their voices. These are things like phone conversations, booths, closed offices, etc.

Since we're talking about a car accident, recordings will generally be okay because no one can reasonably argue an expectation of privacy in the middle of a busy intersection. Whatever conversation takes place, it sure isn't going to be regarded as a private communication. Of course, always conduct due diligence and check your local and municipal laws.

Extrinsic Evidence and the Sixth Amendment

Unfortunately, jurors have smartphones too and there's very little the judge can do to ensure that the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights do not get violated by jurors nipping off during break to surf the web for more information. No evidence shall be considered unless it is admitted in court. Even courts must adhere to this rule.

Unless judges confiscate smart devices, juror research is a very real possibility. This outside research is impermissible and is not part of the body of evidence. But Sixth Amendment or not, people sometimes still do it anyway, and this can impact your case.

Smartphone Evidence Is Here to Stay

Pictures really are worth a thousand words, and with cell phone video recordings of such incendiary incidents like the shooting of Walter Scott or the choking of Eric Garner, smartphone evidence is here to stay indefinitely. Obviously, an auto accident cannot compare to the much weightier issue of police interactions with communities of color (or society generally), but it really goes to show that smartphones aren't just changing how car accident suits are being conducted. They're changing everything in terms of the evidence shown in court.

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