Recently, The Guardian published an article about how an individual identified the locations of secret U.S. military bases in the Middle East though GPS signals from fitbit trackers worn by the soldiers stationed there. This started me thinking about how it is possibly to obtain significant liability and damages information in personal injury cases in the same manner.
Many cyclists these days, particularly serious recreational cyclists, use a bicycle computer which uses a GPS tracker to record the cyclist’s speed, average speed, distance travelled and various other data. These computers are made by a company called Garmin, and in the cycling community, are generally known as “Garmins”, in the same way that tissues are generically known as “Kleenex”. There are also models of Garmin used by runners in a similar manner.
The data that a Garmin records can then be uploaded by the cyclist or runner to a website, so they can look at the data from their ride, including speed, distance travelled, average speed and such like. This website will also generate a map of the athlete’s route from the GPS data recorded during the ride. The three most popular websites of this kind are Strava, Garmin-Connect and IMapMyRide / IMapMyRun. Although this sounds a bit nerdy, these sites are essentially like Facebook for athletes, where people can share their rides with other athletes.
It appears quite clear that the data from the Garmin bike computer is a Schedule “A” document and ought to be produced in litigation. Similarly, the data from Strava, Garmin-Connect and/or IMapMyRide is also producible.
This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it is possible to tell the speed at which a cyclist is travelling when they crashed by reviewing this data. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, historical Garmin data will show how often a cyclist or runner has ridden or run a particular route, or passed a particular location on occasions prior to the date of loss, which could be relevant for establishing their familiarity with a route, and whether they knew or ought to have known that a particular hazard was present.
Many lawyers will not be aware of the existence of these social media pages or this data. Accordingly, as a matter of best practices, counsel should be sending a letter to the Plaintiff’s lawyer in any personal injury case involving a cycling or running accident very early on explaining about Garmins, Strava and such like and asking that the Plaintiff’s data be preserved and produced.
A cyclist’s or runner’s Strava (or similar) page is also relevant to the issue of damages, as it will show the Plaintiff’s level of activity following the accident. Similarly, Fitbit data is also relevant for the same reason and requests should be made for this at discovery.