Is your Fitbit a Fit Snitch? Is Strava spying on you?
The scary truth is that the personal data being recorded by our fitness tracking devices and apps – such as Fitbit or Strava – could wind up as evidence in a bike accident court case.
How that data is used will depend greatly on the circumstances. The good news for bicycle riders: the information that is being collected could be extremely valuable if you ever have a bike accident.
Fitbit and A False Police Report
The use of Fitbit data was recently brought to light by Investigative Reporter Jodie Fleischer of WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. Her investigation was triggered by a case from Pennsylvania in which a woman initially accused an unknown intruder of sexual assault.
In the course of the investigation into the alleged attack, Pennsylvania police officers recovered the woman’s Fitbit at the scene. The Fitbit data contradicted the woman’s account of her actions, and the investigators concluded the accuser’s story and allegations were false. They said she had staged a crime scene to make it appear that an attack had taken place.
The woman was prosecuted for filing a false report, and the star witness against her was her own tracking device.
Documenting Prior Biking Activity
WSB-TV sought out Decatur bicycle crash lawyer Bruce Hagen to get his thoughts on the subject. It turns out that the use of Fitbits and other activity tracking devices is nothing new in the Bike Law world. In fact, Bruce has been encouraging his clients, particularly those who are on Strava, MapMyRide or RideWithGPS, to make sure they save all their pre-injury data. The reason: it can come in handy in a bike accident case.
One example: Insurance companies love to accuse older accident victims, especially athletes, of suffering from pre-existing injuries. Insurance adjusters do this to try and undercut the claim that the motorist’s negligence in a bike-car crash caused your injuries. They’ll claim your bad knee was caused by your days as a marathon runner.
You can counter the insurance company’s defense with a documented history of prior physical activity, recorded by fitness devices or other GPS tracking apps. Your cycling record completely undermines the insurance company’s argument – especially when you’re logging 150-200 miles a week prior to a wreck and now haven’t ridden for weeks or months.
Pinpointing Location Of Bike Crash
The trackers also can be used to pinpoint location, speed and direction. It’s easy to anticipate situations in divorce cases where fitness tracking data is used to put someone at a place – say the No Tell Motel — where they perhaps should not be.
In a bike accident case, GPS data can be used to show from which direction a biker approached an intersection, as well as his or her speed at the time of a crash. In cases where the cyclist cannot remember the accident, that information could be crucial to establishing the motorist’s fault.
The important thing to remember here is that the data saved on your fitness tracking software may have a use well beyond your KOM ranking.
Thanks to Bruce for the information in this post. For more information about bicycling in Georgia, please see Bruce’s FAQs on Georgia bike laws.