horwich farrelly

Telematics and proving negatives

July, 8, 2019

One of the inevitable side effects of the development of autonomous vehicles has been the steady improvement in the sophistication and reliability of telematics data. In the context of legal claims, the two primary sources of useful information are the GPS tracking of location and time; and the data available about acceleration/deceleration and how any forces applied to a vehicle affect its course.

The GPS data is useful at two levels. First, it can help create a background history to see whether one or more seemingly unconnected individuals are in fact acquainted, by monitoring their travel to common locations. Secondly, where an impact does take place, it accurately records the location. A party’s route to that point and their driving in the lead-up to the collision may provide invaluable insight into whether there should be concern about the circumstances.

The other data that can be extracted is particularly helpful in investigating staged and low velocity impact (LVI) claims. The areas of dispute in these claims have invariably involved relatively small but significant differences in the levels of alleged speed and how fierce was any braking. Now speed can be determined with far greater precision both leading up to and at the point of impact; together with the nature of that impact in terms of the forces at work through the vehicle; and what braking (if any) was applied

In each of these scenarios, telematics produces a new level of evidence: a scientific basis for proving that the circumstances in which an accident allegedly occurred are not feasible. The judge is no longer faced with the task of trying to determine, on the basis only of witness evidence, which of two competing versions of events is to be believed. Particularly in LVI claims, even where medical or other expert evidence was before the court, the experts’ opinions were often expressed in the alternative and dependent on the judge’s findings of fact. This alternative source of evidence should increasingly see those experts pushed off the fence.

It is for a claimant to prove his case on the balance of probabilities. Evidence from telematics will be used increasingly to prevent claimants from discharging that burden. In a number of cases it may also be used to prove that the claim from the outset was fundamentally dishonest and that the claimant should suffer some form of penalty, beyond the dismissal of his claim.

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