Can Big Brother Watch Your Driving?
Our world is so technologically interconnected, technology is part of every facet of our existence, from household devices, to smart speakers, to our smartphones. It’s everywhere.
The other day, my wife took “my” car (oops, I mistyped “our”) to pick up her parents from the airport. I managed to avoid this duty, but she got to drive my car. Out of boredom, I noticed I could use the car’s app to track nearly everything she was doing in the vehicle.
I could see what she was listening to on her phone through Bluetooth.
I could see (and remotely control) the temperature inside the vehicle.
I could see her speed.
And, most frighteningly, I could see exactly where she was.
All this got us both wondering, her as a normal person and me as a lawyer, “what could this mean for future car crashes?” What data could be utilized by insurance companies, lawyers, and the like?
Many vehicles these days are equipped with dash recorders. I’ve blogged previously about how this footage can be valuable in disputed crashes. Presuming you have the dashcam turned “on,” it will record what happens in front of you, and, in the case of more advanced vehicles like the Tesla, it will also record what happened behind you and on the sides. Generally, this is erased rather quickly, but there may be ways to recover even previously erased video.
In general, the data goes onto the USB drive of the vehicle, and the owner could download and save the data. In some situations, it may also be amassed by the vehicle company.
Think of this for a moment. Instead of Mr. Jones claiming he was going 30 miles per hour and Ms. Smith claiming he was going at least 50 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone, you could simply obtain the vehicle’s data and solve the dispute.
Who ran the light? Let’s look at the tale of the tape! We lawyers who handle truck cases are always aware that truck data recorders keep massive amounts of useful information, and we almost always immediately subpoena this information in truck crash injury cases. It is essential to the handling of these cases.
But data recorder information has not been nearly as available in car cases. Until recently.
How To Obtain the Data
Herein lies the rub. Since the data is presumably the private data of the driver, it will not be released without a subpoena. To obtain a subpoena, one needs to file a lawsuit. Because the relevant data may be erased quickly, this may require the party’s attorney seeking the information to act much quicker than is typical.
The subpoena presumably would ask to preserve and turn over all data from the USB, and would likely also go to the car company for any data it keeps.
Now we get into the weeds of what is “private data” and what is “legally discoverable.” In most cases, within limits, a lawyer can obtain social media information from the other party, so it is not a stretch at all to presume that driver data (speed, camera information, question of lights, right of way) and video would be deemed discoverable by a judge.
How does one balance the right of an injured party to this very relevant information against someone else’s right to privacy?
We could go back and forth on this point for pages and pages. Suffice it to say, this is the new frontier for attorneys on both sides of the matter. The courts will be busy as cars become more and more computerized.
Newer vehicles amass a great amount of video and data
This data may be very useful in the event of a crash, going to prove or disprove speed, liability, right-of-way, and the like
Obtaining such saved data will be the new frontier of injury law
Courts will have to balance relevance and discoverability against privacy
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury, dog bites or injuries, workers’ compensation, medical malpractice, or other injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front, and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.
This article was featured in the January 3rd, 2024 publication of Inside-Booster, Chicago's neighborhood newspaper covering news of Lincoln Park, Lake View, North Center, and Lincoln Square.