The developing role of computer forensics in personal injury claims
Over the past few years, we have seen technology become more central to and integrated with our day to day lives. According to a recent online survey, it is currently estimated that around 86-89% of the world’s population has a smartphone, with 111 million registered users of Fitbit in 2021 and in 2022 20% of British homes had a video doorbell. Not only is data from these devices useful to the user, but it can also be a valuable resource in personal injury claims and particularly those of a serious or catastrophic nature.
Historically, insurers involved in serious injury claims have regularly used social media and surveillance in order to properly evaluate claims to ensure fair compensation. This has, to some extent, largely relied on luck as to whether a claimant leaves their home on a particular day and how much a claimant posts about their life publicly on social media. There is, however, a better source of largely untapped electronic information available which the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) permits disclosure of, but in reality is often overlooked by both parties. At Kennedys, we refer to this as computer forensics.
Computer forensics takes a new approach to gathering claims intelligence from unique sources such as laptops, mobile phones, fitness trackers, travel cards, video doorbells, GPS data and even Alexa devices. Such data shows a fuller picture over a prolonged period, making it more reliable than surveillance and social media in showing the true picture. We have been at the forefront of its use in serious and catastrophic injury claims, leading to outcomes for our clients which would not have been obtained but for computer forensics. We list below a number of recent case studies.
- Through computer forensic disclosure we established that a claimant’s allegations as to when she stopped running her own business were inaccurate. As a result, her loss of earnings claim was proven to be exaggerated. The claim settled for less than 10% of the damages pleaded on a costs-inclusive basis.
- Computer forensic interrogation enabled us to disprove that a claimant was unable to use public transport and required increased assistance and costs when travelling abroad. This, along with other areas of proven exaggeration led to a significant reduction in the claim value initially advanced by the claimant.
- A seven-figure claim settled for less than 3% of the pleaded value after computer forensic disclosure refuted a variety of allegations as to levels of the claimant’s physical capability.
- A lack of evidence in computer forensic disclosure refuted allegations that a claimant relied on various electronic devices to prompt them with day to day tasks due to their alleged ongoing brain injury.
- Computer forensic investigations revealed that a photograph of an alleged hazard from the date of the accident taken by the claimant had in fact been taken six years pre-accident and was widely available on Google. This finding significantly undermined the both the claimant’s credibility and their case on liability.
Looking ahead, we expect computer forensics to become more prolific in personal injury claims both for quantum and liability arguments. As more technology is developed and used by society, the harder it will be for a person’s actions to not be recorded by electronic data in one way or another. We are finding judges are taking less convincing to make orders for such disclosure, with a wider understanding as to the benefits that computer forensics disclosure can have on a case.