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Access to Cell Phone Data after an Accident in Florida – Antico v. Sindt Trucking, Inc.

truck2Unfortunately, many people throughout Florida and the United States engage in distracted driving every year by using their cellphones when they are behind the wheel. Despite texting and driving being illegal in the state of Florida, it continues to be a huge problem throughout the state. If you or someone you know has been hurt in an automobile accident, an experienced Miami injury lawyer can help assess the merits of your case and inform you of your options.

When a cell phone is the potential cause of an accident, it is common for parties to request cell phone records. In Antico v. Sindt Trucking, Inc., the court addressed the question of when a party asks to examine the content of the phone.

The facts of the case are as follows. The case was a wrongful death action brought by the widower and personal representative of the estate of a woman who was killed in a truck accident. The defendants alleged that the decedent was partially at fault because she was on her iPhone at the time of the accident. The plaintiffs objected, using privacy rights under the state constitution as the basis for their objection.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion as long as the inspection took place in the presence of the plaintiff’s counsel and extracted only information that was relevant to the accident. According to the trial court, the cell phone records were extremely relevant because they could show whether or not the decedent was engaged on her phone immediately prior to the wreck. Witnesses had testified to seeing the decedent on her phone before the crash, and the deputies responding to the accident made the same assertion.

The court set forth certain guidelines under which the cellphone could be examined. There was a nine-hour limit, and protective software had to be used to make sure no changes were made to the hard drive. The defendants sought to access the decedent’s browsing history, email, text messages, and social and photo media to see what was posted during that time and to determine the location where such information was accessed.

The plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court ultimately agreed with the lower court, holding that having an expert search the cellphone’s data within the parameters set forth by the court did not violate the law or depart from acceptable civil rules.

Florida is a comparative negligence state, which means the law allows an injured person to recover damages minus those proportionate to his or her degree of fault. For example, if a plaintiff is found to have contributed to the wreck by 40 percent, he or she will only be able to recover 60 percent of his or her total damages from the defendant.

It is important to note that this case highlights the fact that cellphone data is typically accessible by both sides. If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, you should contact an experienced truck accident attorney. We proudly represent clients throughout South Florida. To learn all your legal options, do not hesitate to reach out to us. You can contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.

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