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Proving Distracted Driving with Cell Phone Data

By Butler Prather LLP on July 11, 2022

When a vehicle accident occurs, and one side alleges that the other was distracted by a cell phone, this can be difficult to prove. In many cases, these incidents turn into one story against another, but it may be possible to use cell phone data to try and determine whether or not a driver was distracted when a crash occurred. Here, we want to discuss how you can get cell phone data from another party and whether or not this will help prove liability for the incident.

Cell Phone Data – What it Tells Us

On March 18, 2018, Elaine Herzberg was struck by a self-driving car in Arizona. Unfortunately, she died from her injuries. Even though this may seem like a fluke incident that happened in a type of vehicle that is not yet operating in the mainstream, the reality is that this incident should not have occurred.

This self-driving Uber vehicle was a test vehicle, and there was a human in the driver’s seat who was supposed to take over driving activities if there were any dangers in front of the vehicle. The driver, distracted by her cell phone, failed to see Herzberg in time.

Police records indicate that the person in the driver’s seat began streaming a video at 9:16 PM and stopped streaming at 9:59 PM. Based on an examination of the cell phone records (and other surveillance footage gathered during the investigation), it is clear that the driver was watching videos on the cell phone at the time the incident occurred.

Even though this incident took place in Arizona, distracted driving is a major problem across the country, including here in Georgia. However, when a collision occurs and distracted driving is suspected, actually proving that distracted driving can be challenging. All too often, these situations delve into a “he said she said” type of situation.

In many cases, the only way to prove that a person was actively using their cell phone is to subpoena records from the cell phone data provider. When obtaining cell phone records, this can show whether or not a person was:

  • Sending over receiving a text message
  • Talking on the cell phone
  • Actively using the phone’s data

In some cases, it may be necessary for attorneys or law enforcement officials to dig further to discover whether or not an individual was distracted. After all, if a person is using a GPS device or listening to music through their cell phone, their data will be used, but this may not indicate that they or distracted. In the Arizona case, police officers and investigators also obtained records from streaming services, including Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix.

Working With an Attorney

If you or somebody you care about has been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you need to work with an attorney immediately. A skilled Atlanta distracted driving accident lawyer will fully investigate your claim and help you uncover any evidence needed to prove liability. Your lawyer will examine all avenues available, including cell phone records, to help you secure compensation for your losses. By successfully proving that the other driver was distracted, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering damages, property damage expenses, and more.

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