In a personal injury case, damages like medical bills, lost wages, and damaged property can be simple to quantify. Damages like pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment, however, are much harder to put a dollar amount on.
When it comes to proving that an accident has affected someone’s quality of life or ability to work, the injured party’s attorney usually relies on medical records and testimonies from doctors, family members, and coworkers to build a case. Now, some attorneys are using data from wearable fitness trackers to help back up their claims.
Wearable tech gadgets like Fitbit, Apple Watch, and even many smart phones track a wearer’s activity throughout the day. These collect data like number of steps taken, flights of stairs climbed, calories burned, heart rate, blood pressure, location, and more.
A Canadian law firm was the first to use this type of data in court to show the effects that a car accident had on their client’s life. The attorneys outfitted their client—a young woman who worked as a professional trainer—with a Fitbit to show that her daily activity levels were below someone of a similar age and profession after the accident.
Instead of relying solely on medical records or clinical interpretation, the attorneys now have a source of hard data to help prove the compromised the woman’s activity.
This isn’t the only time this type of data was used as evidence. Recently, a Florida woman staying at a home in Pennsylvania claimed that she was attacked in the middle of the night by an unknown home invader. She told police the assailant pulled her out of bed while she was sleeping and attacked her at knifepoint in the bathroom. The woman also claimed her Fitbit was lost during the struggle with the attacker.
Police found the device in the hallway and, after the woman supplied them with her account info, used the data to prove that she was active and walking around during the night—not sleeping as she claimed. The woman is now facing misdemeanor charges for falsifying reports to law enforcement.
The reliability of this data as evidence is still being tested but its potential is intriguing. For police, it may become the next technological crime-fighting tool, à la Facebook and other social media sites. For personal injury attorneys, it could help provide a clear before and after snapshot of an accident’s devastating effects on an injury victim. Although its use is already raising privacy concerns among some groups, it seems likely that this data will become more commonplace in the courtroom in the near future.