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Snapchat and Car Crashes

August 8, 2016 Automobile Accidents, Products Liability

Speedometer on phoneTechnology professionals have long used the concept of a “killer app,” an application so useful or game changing that it can quickly move users onto a new platform or change the way they use their computing devices. Today we need to worry about the appearance of a new kind of killer app: One that—when used irresponsibly—can actually lead to someone’s death.

A series of tragic car crashes has us wondering whether this new killer app has already arrived, and if, in this case, it’s called Snapchat.

An Important Social Media Player

In April, Snapchat was estimated to have 100 million daily users who combined to watch around 10 billion video clips each day. That’s well behind the social media powerhouse Facebook, with its 1.6 billion users, but with nearly 25 percent growth over the previous two months, Snapchat might be catching up fast.

If you’re not familiar with Snapchat, it’s a mobile messaging application designed primarily to quickly share photos and video clips with friends and acquaintances. The unusual twist to Snapchat is that messages usually vanish within ten seconds of being viewed (although users have a way to keep them around for twenty-four hours). The living-in-the-moment nature of this app should be a red flag already, since it demands that users who want to keep up with their friends must constantly check-in to view and react to new posts.

But one particular feature of Snapchat, known as the speed filter, has raised the stakes even further.

Speed Filter Blamed for Car Crashes and Death

Snapchat allows (some say ‘encourages’) users to apply filters to the images they post. A user can, for example, add flare effects, sunglasses, rainbows, the temperature and location, emojis, or any number of other artistic or text effects.

Only one filter seems to have gotten users into trouble so far: the speed filter. This particular filter reads the GPS on the user’s device to detect the speed he or she is moving at and display it on an image. Some users have taken it upon themselves to view this as an invitation to drive at high speed and take a Snapchat selfie of their reckless behavior.

A September 2015 crash in Georgia has now led to criminal charges against the driver, who crashed into another car and inflicted a traumatic brain injury on its driver. The victim also spent several weeks in a coma afterward. The driver at fault reportedly reached 113 miles per hour while trying to capture her speed with the app and also received injuries that required hospitalization.

New App, Old Legal Issues

The victim is now suing Snapchat under product liability law, for marketing a product it knew to be dangerous. Where this case will eventually lead, no one can say, but this is not the first crash blamed on the app. Numerous crashes, some resulting in injury or death, have now been attributed to Snapchat users. The speed filter is believed to have been involved in a Philadelphia crash in December which killed three, and it’s suspected to be behind a July crash that killed two teens in Maine.

The case that’s attracted the most attention worldwide is probably that of a driver in the United Kingdom who captured himself reaching 142 miles per hour just before crashing into another car and killing its driver. That culprit has been sentenced to six years in prison, and the wreckage of the accident was put on public display to help warn others of the danger.

Indiana Car Crash Attorneys

If you’ve been in a vehicle accident that can be blamed on a distracted driver, you should discuss your situation with an experience personal injury lawyer. Whether the other driver was using an app like Snapchat or was negligent in another way, you may have the right to compensation for any damage or injury caused.

The Indianapolis car accident lawyers at Wilson Kehoe Winingham have extensive experience handling a variety of cases involving automobiles, and we offer a free consultation to all new clients. Let us put our knowledge to work for you. Call us at 317-920-6400 or contact us online today to learn more.

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