Every year, over 3 million people are injured in accidents.
This could be at home, at work or whilst travelling or outdoors. For many of these cases, the victim is not at fault and has the right to claim compensation. But how many do you think are successful?
Personal injury and accident claims
Wearable technology is now set to revolutionise personal injury and accident claims. We know already that this new tech can be fashionable, helpful and even let you control your mobile phone. Now it seems it can help you win your court case.
Recently, a law firm in Canada has introduced a wearable device with a Fitbit tracker, which shows what effects an accident has had on a client. This is the first time a wearable device has been used in a courtroom.
As Forbes reported, the case involved concerns a law firm representing a client who was employed as a personal trainer. She was then injured in a car accident four years ago. The woman has been going about her daily life with the help of this wearable piece of technology. It gathers data including steps taken and hours of sleep, in order to help prove that her activity levels dropped.
Usually, doctors are used to establish the extent of an individual’s injuries, but this case is the first of its kind where data tracking is being used to determine the outcome. And it could be a big sign of what is to come.
How can Fitbit data be used?
In personal injury claim cases, a claimant will wear a Fitbit device for several months. This will track a user’s movements while they wear it, including the number of steps taken, elevation and sleep pattern. The quantifiable data is then extracted and can establish details about the wearer’s activity levels and lifestyle.
It is then compared to a database showing the average activity of the nation, with datasets based on age, gender and body mass index. This data can help to establish the change in a victim’s activity following an accident or it can be used to compare against the national average, which helps the court to determine how a victim’s life has been impacted through their injuries.
So instead of relying on clinical interpretation, concrete data will be used instead.
However, the definition of what is ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ is difficult to determine. It depends on the research that a particular company is using and this information isn’t visible – analytics companies aren’t required to reveal what data they are using and how the data is being analysed.
How reliable is this data?
The most obvious question that we’re all asking is this: how can fitness tracking devices be reliable and accurate for personal injury claims?
It seems that it could be very easy for defendants and their legal teams to argue that the victim is simply reducing their amounts of activity on purpose, in order to exaggerate the seriousness of their injuries. They will then ultimately gain a larger amount of compensation.
The reliability will be shown on the length of time the victim has to wear the tracker. The longer the tracker is worn for means a larger amount of quantifiable data will be collected, thus meaning a court has plenty of data to establish an outcome.
For the case in Canada, this data is expected to show that since her accident, the woman concerned is now forced to lead a much less active lifestyle, than someone else of her age, in her profession.
What are the latest developments?
The law firm in this case isn’t using Fitbit’s data directly. They have teamed up with an analytics platform called Vivametrica, which uses public data to compare an individual’s activity data with that of the general population.
Their tool provides a method for the early evaluation of the strength of a client’s case. It is said to close the gap between what a client identifies and what is actually provable. The company have said that the method provides ‘valid, objective and individualised information.’
In the case concerned, the client’s data will be processed by Vivametrica, which will compare the woman’s activity with the rest of the population.
Lawyers are presuming that, as a personal trainer, women in the same profession would have a higher-than-average fitness level. If her activity levels are found to have dropped significantly, the law firm will use this data to help prove that her injuries decreased her quality of life.
However, there are some concerns regarding this method. While the company says it has no plans to sell users’ personal data, in cases such as this it would be forced to hand it over to a court.
There is also the fact that Fitbit is known as a casual, fun lifestyle gadget. In no way yet has it been proven to be a reliable law and medical device.
What happens next?
It is unsure yet whether the use of wearable technology will become a critical and useful tool in courtrooms, but the law firm in this case seems to be feeling optimistic. They already have other cases lined up for which Fitbit data will also be used.
In terms of what law says about this new method, there doesn’t seem to be that many answers. Canadian courts have safeguards in terms of protecting against the right of self-incrimination and providing the right in criminal prosecutions to be ‘confronted with the witnesses’ against a person.
But when it comes down to a piece of wearable technology, who is the witness? The actual device? Your wrist? The internet service provider? It seems to be unclear yet as to how courts will handle the different possibilities.
Technology is always evolving and if it proves to be insightful and successful for courts, there seems to be no reason why this method won’t be implemented in personal injury claim cases.
This current case could open the door to technology and data being used in other court cases and even prosecutions. It will only be a matter of time.