Your Smartphone Can Be Evidence in a Car Accident
If there’s reason to believe it played a part, cell phone use may make or break your caseBy Judy Malmon, J.D. | Last updated on January 26, 2023
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Cellphone EvidenceBecause so many car accidents involve people using their phones while driving, the phone itself has become a key piece of evidence in personal injury litigation. Cobbling together both cellphone records and text history, attorneys can track whether someone was sending or receiving a call or text at the time of an accident. “If they were distracted because of an app, like Facebook, that may be more difficult to prove if there’s no time stamp,” Vinick says. “Phone company records don’t have the actual texts, but they will have a record that this phone received a text at this time, and you can use this to show they were distracted. It only takes one second to lose control, to go too fast, to not be able to avoid something that would have easily been avoided. Even hands-free, a text would still be a distraction.” Where the evidence shows that a motorist was on their phone immediately prior to the time of the crash, in Maryland, that does not result in an automatic finding of negligence. “Maryland does not have negligence per se, but considers it evidence of negligence,” says Vinick. “Distracted driving is a violation of statute—you have the requirement to pay full attention to your driving when you are behind the wheel.”
The PenaltiesIf you are found to have been on your phone at the time of an accident, Maryland law requires an automatic three points on your driver’s license, as well as a fine. In a civil action, unless the other driver is shown to have also been negligent, you would likely be liable for damages. And if you think you can delete data from your phone to dodge liability, think again. “If I can show that phone data has been altered—for example, texts in the phone records that aren’t on the phone—I can get an instruction telling the jury to infer that evidence would have been favorable to my client,” Vinick says. If you get into an accident that appears to have been distraction-related (whether you or the other driver), talk to an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. “People tend to think, ‘Oh, I’m not drunk; it’s not a big deal if I do this. Or, ‘I’m not texting, I’m checking my texts,’” Vinick adds. “It’s the same thing. Because once your eyes have left the road, by definition, you are now a distracted driver. That’s how I present it to the jury.” For more information on on car accident lawyers (car accident attorneys), police reports, and personal injury claims (car accident claims), see our overviews of personal injury and car accidents.
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