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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How the 'Textalyzer' Can Impact a Personal Injury Claim

We all know what a breathalyzer is.  We all know what it means if a person fails a breathalyzer.  We all know the consequences if someone fails a breathalyzer following an autmobile accident.    What not everyone knows is that a similar device may be on its way that could have a strong impact on a person's personal injury claim.  That device is being referred to as the 'textalyzer.' 

The 'textalyzer' is a device roughly the size of a tablet and was designed as a tool to help law enforcement prevent distracted driving, hopefully curbing the increase in the number of nationwide fatalities caused by distracted driving.  Essentially the device would plug in to a driver's mobile device and download and analyze the data from that phone.  This information would accurately tell the police officer whether or not the driver was utilizing his or her phone at the time of the accident.

Right now, the police need a search warrant to allow them to download that data, but that could change in the near future.  Texting and driving is illegal in 47 states (and the District of Columbia) and it is a pretty clear cut argument as to why an immediate download of the driver's information would be beneficial to the investigation.  Opponents have said that doing so would be an invasion of privacy.

Putting aside the privacy concerns for a minute, it is important to realize the impact that the 'textalyzer' could have on personal injury claims.  Let's say you are driving down the highway and are sideswiped by another vehicle who failed to signal a lane change.  While you know you were not doing anything wrong, what if the other driver claims the accident was your fault because you were distracted and did not see the vehicle changing lanes.  Often times in these cases, unless an eye witness comes forward, it is one drivers word against the others.  The 'textalyzer' could be used to prove conclusively that you were not on your phone at the time of the accident. 

The 'textalyzer' could quickly determine liability in a vehicle collision, eliminating months of debate between a personal injury attorney and an insurance company regarding liability.  Just like a failed breathalyzer test, a failed 'textalyzer' test can help the parties determine liability quickly and may put pressure on an insurance company to settle a claim quicker.  In an accident with no other evidence as to fault, if one driver failed a 'textalyzer' test and the other did not, the non-distracted driver's case improves immeasurably.

Right now the 'textalyzer' is not an everyday reality, but as distracted driving becomes a more and more serious (and deadly) concern nationwide, it likely will.  Just like the laws enforcing the breathalyzer, it seems like the need for the 'textalyzer' will overcome invasion of privacy concerns and become routine for investigating officers.  In fact, legislation is already underway in several states, including New York and New Jersey to allow authorities to suspend your license if you refuse to hand over your phone.        

As always, if you have been involved in an automobile accident these are issues best discussed with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.


By Samuel S. Reidy, Esq.

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