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Fitbits and Personal Injury Cases in California

Fitbits and Personal Injury Cases in California
Marc Karlin

Fitness trackers, including Fitbits and Apple Watches, have become extremely popular in the United States in recent years. According to a survey by Pew Research Center, an estimated three out of 10 American adults with an annual household income of $75,000 or more say that they are using a fitness tracker or smartwatch regularly. Fitness trackers collect data about the user’s movements, sleep, heart rate, and even whereabouts. The data is stored for years and can provide reliable activity tracking information.

This begs the question of Fitbits and personal injury cases. The everyday use of technology and wearable devices can generate enormous amounts of data, which is why smartphones and social media have been used in divorce, criminal, and even personal injury cases more frequently in recent years. But what about Fitbits and other fitness trackers? The data collected from a fitness tracker could potentially be used in a court of law to support or refute legal claims.

At Karlin & Karlin, our experienced attorneys help victims in personal injury cases understand the potential impact of evidence collected from fitness trackers and other electronic devices. With offices based in Glendale and Corona, California, our personal injury attorneys offer free consultations. Consider calling (888) 295-0138 to schedule a consultation for your case.

What Are Fitbits?

Fitbit is a consumer electronics and fitness company that was founded in 2007 in San Francisco, California. The company is best known for its production of fitness trackers called Fitbits. A Fitbit is a device worn on the wrist—less often on the belt—to measure the user’s movements and track his or her physical activity and fitness goals. Other fitness trackers that are commonly worn by people throughout California include Apple Watches, Garmin, Amazfit, Amazon Halo, Samsung Galaxy, and others.

While there are different models of Fitbits available to consumers in California and throughout the United States, most of them can provide a documented record of physical activity and other forms of health-related information. The data collected by Fitbits and other fitness trackers could potentially be used in a personal injury case to support or refute an injured party’s claims.

The Accuracy of Data Collected by Fitness Trackers

There have been numerous studies regarding the accuracy of data collected by fitness trackers. One was conducted by the International Journal of Environmental Research. In that study, researchers concluded that wearable devices could “reliably measure” the:

  • Active and resting heart rate
  • Flights of stairs climbed
  • Distance walked/ran
  • Amount and quality of sleep

According to researchers, while fitness trackers can serve as “effective health evaluation indicators,” the accuracy of measuring energy consumption is “inadequate.” In addition to recording data on the above-mentioned measurements, fitness trackers also track and collect the following information:

  • The user’s location
  • Number of calories burned
  • Body composition
  • Blood pressure
  • Changes in pace
  • The length of the walking step

How Can a Fitness Tracker Be Used as Evidence in a Personal Injury Case?

Fitbits and other fitness trackers are equipped with heart rate monitors, accelerometers, GPS, and other features to collect various data about the user. Some of the information collected by Fitbits could be considered admissible and useful evidence in a legal dispute. At Karlin & Karlin, our attorneys regularly discuss the topic of Fitbits and personal injury cases and the admissibility of evidence recorded by these and other fitness trackers.

The data collected by Fitbits and other fitness trackers could support the injured person’s complaints about decreased mobility and a lack of physical activity after sustaining an injury. Post-accident data may also support a doctor’s opinion about a decline in the injured party’s health. When data collected by a fitness tracker is used as evidence in a personal injury case, the injured party’s attorney or the opposing party compares data collected by the device before and after the accident, if available, to demonstrate changes in the injured person’s activity levels and other types of recorded health information.

Is Fitbit Data Admissible Evidence in Personal Injury Cases?

Despite the initial reluctance from courts to consider data collected by fitness trackers as admissible evidence in personal injury cases, wearable devices are slowly gaining recognition within the legal community. The first known case that used fitness tracker data as evidence in litigation occurred in Canada. The injured party’s lawyer used data from the client’s fitness tracker to show that her activity levels had decreased compared to pre-accident data.

After the milestone case, an increasing number of courts around the world, including the United States, have considered data from wearable devices as admissible evidence in personal injury cases. The same can be said about Fitbits and personal injury cases in California.

Can Fitbit Data Be Used Against the Injured Person?

While data collected by Fitbits and other wearable devices can be an invaluable piece of evidence to support the injured person’s claim, it can also be used against the plaintiff. The insurance company or the opposing party in litigation may request data collected by a fitness tracker to show that the injured party’s activity levels did not change compared to pre-accident data and, thus, disprove the severity of the plaintiff’s injury.

Can Someone Manipulate Fitbit Data to Their Advantage?

While Fitbits and other fitness trackers are not easily manipulated by changing sleep patterns, activity levels, heart rate, or pace, these wearable devices are not foolproof. For example, the injured party may attempt to manipulate data by artificially decreasing activity levels and by not wearing the device when active. In addition, a device could produce erroneous readings, which could potentially affect a personal injury case. Despite the potential for manipulation, Fitbit data may still be a reliable piece of evidence.

Personal Injury Attorneys in Glendale & Corona, California

Even though there is an abundance of information about Fitbits and personal injury cases and the admissibility of data collected by fitness trackers, an injured party may still have questions about whether their Fitbit data can be used in their particular case. At Karlin & Karlin, our experienced personal injury attorneys serve clients throughout the state of California and are prepared to review each unique case and help their clients collect all applicable evidence to support their claims, including Fitbit data. Consider calling (888) 295-0138 to schedule your free consultation.

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