Texting and driving has been a major issue in personal injury suits for the past several years. Attorneys use texting evidence is used in many cases as proof the defendant was distracted and at-fault. However, with more people using social media apps while driving, some personal injury lawsuits are targeting specific apps. Apps, that are more distracting to drivers.
Snapchat, a popular app that lets you send picture and video messages that disappear after being opened, is under fire. One feature of the app allows people to add a “speed filter” that says how fast they are moving over the picture or video they take. This speed filter incentivizes some users to use it while they are driving, which is obviously a huge distraction.
Use of the speed filter isn’t the only concern in Snapchat personal injury lawsuits. Selfies and videos drivers take while they are driving is also a huge issue. Personal Injury Attorneys are starting to ask if Snapchat could have been involved, especially because these videos and pictures disappear after a few seconds. The disappearing act of these videos and pictures makes it harder to prove that the app was used during accidents. That is, unless they were screen-shotted or saved to the phone before being sent.
In the past year there have been a couple of major accidents that involved the use of Snapchat. In Philadelphia three people were burned alive after their car crashed into a trailer carrying chemicals. The driver was believed to be using Snapchat. Another accident occurred in September in Georgia. 18-year-old Crystal McGhee crashed into a car going 113 mph according to the Snapchat speed filter that she was using during the crash. She then used Snapchat after the accident posting a selfie with the caption, “Lucky to be alive.”
The distracted driving law in Florida reads:
” A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of non-voice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications.”*
*This does not include restrictions on using navigation apps. Also, enforcement of this section by state or local law enforcement agencies must be accomplished only as a secondary action when an operator of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of another provision.
Based on Florida law, the use of Snapchat while driving, when it results in an injury or wrongful death is solid evidence in a personal injury claim. However, Snapchat’s liability, according to Inside Counsel would be a “question of duty, if Snapchat has the duty to foresee that the speed filter would encourage drivers to drive at excessive speeds in direct violation of the law.”
Snapchat is trying to limit their potential liability in accidents by adding a warning under the speed filter. This warning is to remind drivers to not snap while driving. What do you think about Snapchat’s liability? Should the speedometer filter be taken off of Snapchat?