Fitness trackers are all the rage these days. Whether you're an avid fitness buff or just someone who wants to keep tabs on their physical fitness, the average fitness tracker offers a treasure trove of information on your health activities.
These fashionable wrist bands are also making their appearance in a most unlikely venue: the courtroom. A growing number of personal injury lawyers are now relying on the wealth of data locked within fitness trackers to help their cases.
Finding New Ways to Seek the Truth
Verifying the facts can be a very difficult challenge, especially when personal injury cases are often fraught with attempts to manipulate the facts in the other party's favor. For this reason, personal injury lawyers have relied on many tactics to seek the truth for their clients.
As an example, lawyer Matthew Pearn offers an account of a plaintiff who claimed that his personal injuries prevented him from sitting at his computer for extended periods, which was a necessity for running his Internet-based business at home. To verify these claims, the defendants filed a motion to retrieve metadata from the plaintiff's hard drive. The defendants would then use this information, which tracked the plaintiff's computer use, to challenge his claims.
Tactics such as these are becoming increasingly commonplace for claims handlers and defense counsels. A growing number of plaintiffs are also using electronic data in order to back up their claims.
The Fitness Tracker's Role in Personal Injury Claims
With electronic data becoming fair game for proving personal injury claims, it was only a matter of time before the personal fitness tracker became a target for plaintiffs and defendants alike. Using wireless technology, fitness trackers and other wearables collect a broad range of information on the wearer's physical state. This often includes weight gain and loss, blood pressure, heart rate and caloric burn.
The data that comes from a fitness tracker carries a variety of uses. Wearers commonly use this data to assess their physical fitness. They may also share this data with their physicians and dieticians. Others may share their data over social networking sites to compare notes with friends and others.
From a legal standpoint, the data that comes from a fitness tracker carries with it a higher degree of reliability. This is due to the unlikelihood that the data within has been tampered in any way, shape or form. When it comes to receiving honest and unbiased testimony, the data from a fitness tracker can carry significantly more weight in certain cases than a clinical interpretation from a doctor or physician.
A Black Box for the Human Body
Many legal experts are concerned that fitness trackers and other wearable devices can easily become yet another invasive device for those who are concerned about their privacy. Lawyers like Pearn are concerned about the implications that personal injury claims could have on a person's privacy rights, especially if the other party requests their data.
On the other hand, the courts are slowly recognizing the dangers that such tactics could pose. In Pearn's account, the plaintiff appealed the motion. The Court of Appeal found that there was no expectation of privacy that would be violated by simply collecting data showing when the plaintiff used his computer. However, the court modified the motion to narrowly restrict what files could be accessed in commission of their findings.
Compelling users to disclose this and other digital information in the courtroom could open up a Pandora's Box of unforeseen issues. Despite the benefits of having hard evidence on hand, the potential privacy issues could make it difficult to effectively use fitness tracker data in personal injury cases.