John Breslo The Breslo Law Firm
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GPS: Short For Gathering Perspective on a Smashup? Maybe

Using Digital Data to Determine What Happened in a Car Accident

Absent eyewitnesses, determining exactly what happened during a car crash or bicycle accident can be challenging as those involved in the collision are often shaky on the details. When someone is injured, accident investigators often attempt to gather evidence as quickly as possible — examining skid marks and patterns of glass debris. But that evidence can disappear within minutes, especially in high-traffic areas where cars are constantly passing by.

It is no surprise, then, that determining exactly what happened in an car accident often comes down to a he-said-she-said kind of situation.

Thanks to advances in technology, some insurance investigators and law enforcement officials are starting to look to devices like black boxes and global positioning systems (GPS) to fill in the gaps. Some GPS devices are able to record valuable information such as: vehicle speed, vehicle location, application of brakes or clutch, lane changes, parking maneuvers, and rollovers. Although few cars have actual black boxes, many vehicles and even bicycles now have GPS installed at the factory or added after market.

GPS Evidence: Does is Help or Hurt Crash Victims?

In some cases, use of GPS evidence can add support to physical evidence at the scene of an accident and help investigators and accident reconstructionists understand what actually happened.

In a recent New York Times story, a professional American bicyclist was hit by a car. The driver claimed that she didn’t hit the cyclist and police were unable to prove where the cyclist had entered the intersection. The police did not have enough facts from the crash scene to issue a citation to the driver. Absent a ticket, the bicyclist knew that it would be difficult to get the driver’s auto insurance company to cover the damages to his bike.

However, thanks to the Garmin GPS device mounted on the cyclist’s handlebars, he was able to recover a digital record of his speed, location, pedal rate and heart rate. Data showed exactly what time he was hit by the car, the speed of his bike, where he stopped prior to the accident and the spike in his heart rate. After looking at the GPS data, the insurance company accepted responsibility and paid for the damages.

But, the analysis of GPS data can work against crash victims as well. Accidents happen so quickly that sometimes it is hard to know exactly what happened. If two cars collide while going through an intersection, one might think that the first car sideswiped the second car. But GPS could reveal that the first car actually had the right-of-way and when the second car sped through the intersection, it rather than the first car, caused the cars to collide.

When using GPS data, beware that it could very well reveal a different story than you think. Be sure to speak with Phoenix car accident lawyer who understands how to obtain and analyze data from GPS devices and who is experienced in handling the insurance companies.