Have you ever represented someone who was wronged in an accident? Better yet, have you ever personally been wronged on the roadways and been injured or lost your property because of it? If so, you probably know just how difficult it can be to get justice. Our legal system is designed to require proof of every little detail used to determine a trial, and unless the incident occurred in full view of plenty of witnesses, or there happen to be cameras that caught the whole thing, it can be difficult to win a case.
Luckily, modern technology is putting an end to that with the mix of litigation and telematics.
With the help of in-car telematics, traffic cases like what we described above are becoming a lot easier to get justice in. It’s not quite black and white, though. There are a lot of nuance factors that need to be considered.
Today, we’ll go over what telematics are, how they help in litigation, and some of the various factors that have to be considered regarding their use.
Let’s get started.
What is Telematics?
This can be explained fairly easily. Have you ever checked the news and seen that a plane has crashed? The first thing everyone involved looks for is the “Black Box”. If you follow those sorts of things, you understand that the Black Box records the plane’s movements and certain other bits of data, and investigating teams use that data to recreate the moments leading up to the crash. Unfortunately, it’s usually far too late for that information to save any lives or get compensation for victims, but it is used to improve the safety of similar airplanes and potentially illuminate mistakes that led to the crash before the plane ever took off; securing justice for families to an extent.
Well, the same thing exists for cars, now.
Most modern cars have started being built with onboard telematic systems installed. These systems are extremely similar to the Black Box systems in airplanes. They record basically every movement your car makes. From how your car brakes to the specific turn it makes and how fast it goes, a telematics system records everything. It also records a vast amount of other data covering a lot more than the average person might expect, and it can detect collisions.
However, unlike plane crashes, onboard vehicle telematics often has a multitude of uses, and it’s typically not too late for the telematics system to be extremely life-changing. When put together, litigation and telematics can make a huge difference.
How is Telematics Used for Cars
As we said, telematics is used for cars similarly to how it’s used for plane crashes, but car wrecks and reckless driving situations are often less extreme, and the telematics data can be used for a multitude of things outside of just recreating a catastrophe to see what went wrong.
Outside of the litigation and telematics mix, telematics can be used by insurance companies to determine a driver’s rates. After all, if the driver is speeding in residential areas, slamming on the brakes nonstop, or turning into oncoming traffic without a care in the world, those are all things an insurance company can use to charge more for coverage.
Telematics can also be used by mechanics to get an idea of what’s going on with a vehicle and causing problems that need to be fixed, or the mechanics at the manufacturer’s shop can use telematics to determine problems that could potentially trigger recalls.
While those are serious uses for telematics that shouldn’t be taken lightly and provide benefits to everyone on the roadways, the litigation system uses them in a different way; litigators most often use telematics to prove guilt or innocence in a legal case.
How Litigators Use Telematics
Since the litigation system is based entirely on defending the accused and getting justice for accusers, litigation and telematics are a combination used for much more than just looking at what happened. It’s used to win cases.
The most basic way this is done is by using the telematics from cars involved in an accident to recreate what happened in an undeniable way. Since telematics are recording everything a car does, even without the owner’s knowledge, they create a far more accurate depiction of events than a human driver does. This isn’t perfect, and we’ll talk about that more later on, but it is a way to get the cold, hard facts of the events without any room for human error or mischief.
When a case involving a wreck happens, the legal teams involved can pull the “Black Box” from one or more of the involved vehicles and get a complete readout of the events leading up to the incident. This is then used to show the court exactly what happened, refute claims made by either side or prove that someone was doing the right or wrong thing in a given situation.
Here are some examples of how telematics can be used.
1: Proving a Client’s Innocence in an Accidental Pedestrian Collision
For this example, let’s imagine that your client is on trial for accidentally hitting a pedestrian. That pedestrian survived, and not only is your client facing a lawsuit for the injuries the pedestrian incurred, but they are also facing criminal charges. Your client is being accused of driving recklessly; resulting in an incident they’re facing legal consequences for.
However, your client insists that their brand-new car experienced brake issues they were not aware of until the incident occurred, and they did their best to avoid the accident to no avail. They claim that the car suddenly had braking issues up the road, and they were pulling into the parking lot where the event occurred when the brakes suddenly caused a serious accident. Your client’s claim is that it was a freak accident at the fault of the vehicle manufacturer and that they shouldn’t have to face jail time.
Your team could use the telematics from the car to show the braking attempts failing not only during the event but the minor issues that occurred just moments beforehand that made your client pull into the parking lot over safety concerns. Wait, it gets better. The telematics from other cars of the same make and model show that these braking issues are occurring across the board.
This could be enough information to help your client avoid jail and prove that they weren’t simply driving around like a maniac.
2: Proving Criminal Guilt in a Rear-End Collision
With a rear-end collision, it isn’t easy to prove your innocence. After all, you’re legally supposed to have plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you. So, for this example, let’s pretend that the defense happens to have a good legal team, and they’re in the process of developing a solid argument to get their client off the hook regardless.
Your client is the victim in the accident, and they claim that the defendant was riding bumper-to-bumper with them. Your client attempted to get in another lane, and the defendant continued to stay behind them and drive aggressively. Road debris forced your client to stop without notice, and the defendant didn’t have enough room to brake properly; causing your client to receive a totaled car and various minor injuries. They’re suing the defendant to pay for the damages and missed wages because of the accident.
Your team could get access to the telematics to first recreate your client’s driving situation. It shows that they were following the rules of the road, attempted to safely switch lanes multiple times (to avoid the aggressive defendant), and right before the wreck, slammed on their brakes.
Then, you can use the telematics from the defendant’s vehicle to prove they were driving well above the speed limit before allegedly getting behind your client’s vehicle, making lane switches that mirror your client’s, and they collided almost as soon as they hit the brakes.
In combination with evidence proving there was debris in the road at the scene of the accident, this could immediately shut down the defendant’s claim that they didn’t do anything wrong.
It shows a history of reckless driving moments before engaging with your client’s vehicle, demonstrates how the defendant was not taking appropriate measures to pass the plaintiff, and shows that they did not have the time to stop their vehicle; which shows they were following too closely.
The Drawbacks of Telematics in Litigation
As you can see, litigation and telematics go together extremely well and can completely derail your opposition’s argument, and it can be the key to winning a case involving traffic crimes. However, while telematics is a great tool for litigation, it does have some drawbacks you have to consider before involving it in your case.
We’re going to go over those drawbacks to prepare you ahead of time, but they might play into different cases in dramatically different ways.
One of the most prominent concerns regarding telematics and its uses is the privacy of vehicle owners. This stretches far outside of just litigation, too.
Telematics provides extremely detailed information regarding a driver’s use of their own private vehicle. Any time someone’s private information is being collected by companies or other entities, there are a ton of hoops to jump through. Especially considering how scrutinized the collection of data has been in other forms of technology.
Typically, this means that insurance companies and other entities trying to use telematics to determine how they treat their customers are under a ton of scrutiny, but it also has implications in the courtroom.
You can’t just grab the telematics system from cars and start presenting it to the courtroom. This has to be approved by the judge presiding over the case, there must be valid reasons for presenting the information, and the defending team has opportunities to have that information blocked.
So, don’t expect it to be easy to get this type of evidence entered into the trial. That tends to be the case with any sort of evidence that can tilt a case one way or another, but if you can get a telematics system entered, you can easily turn a case around.
2: Only Hard Data
Telematics systems are just that. They’re systems. They record what the car is doing at any given time and other bits of data. This data can be used to reconstruct an accident, but it doesn’t provide the sense of nuance that a human testimony does.
Sure, the telematics can tell you that one of the drivers was swerving in and out of lanes, but it can’t tell you that it happened because another vehicle had inappropriate lighting systems installed that blinded the driver, or that the individual was having a medical situation that caused it. The telematics system can also show that a driver was speeding, but it can’t show you that they were doing so to avoid another accident or they were otherwise in danger.
Those little details that are only available from a human perspective aren’t part of a telematics system, and there’s no real way to implement that capability.
You have to consider those details during a case. They can explain the data you present in a way that doesn’t work well for your argument.
Finally, you can’t rely on telematics too much. It’s becoming a lot more common in more modern cars, but the average person isn’t driving a 2022 vehicle around. Telematics isn’t very old, and drivers in older vehicles won’t have those systems installed.
That can work for or against your client’s case.
You should be ready to leverage telematics in your favor when the opportunity presents itself, but there’s no reason to leave proven tactics behind in favor of it. It’s simply not prevalent enough to consistently rely on it for an easy win.
Consider Receiving Guidance for Your Litigation Team
Whether your litigation team is looking to hire an expert witness, receive expert guidance before implementing telematics, or need guidance for another complex legal strategy, Litigation Legal Insight is available to provide professional consultation. This can mean the difference between executing the perfect strategy for an easy win or coming up short and losing your case.