Since the turn of the 21st century, we’ve seen several amazing developments in technology that have not only changed the way we live, but have drastically altered the way we do business. Technological advancements have drastically improved quality of life for a car accident lawyer and many others, and simplified a number of tasks that once took far more energy and time to complete.
The field of law is not immune to the power of technology, and in fact could vastly benefit by embracing the new wave of technology incorporating it into legal practice and client representation as a car accident lawyer. These cutting-edge breakthroughs in technology are changing the way we, as lawyers, present arguments, and engage jurors with new, interactive exhibits and experiences.
New Technologies in the Courtroom
Electronic Court Filing
In an effort to become more eco-friendly, more lawyers are moving toward paperless documentation. Courts are now allowing claimants and lawyers to submit documents via online electronic submission, or “e-filing,” which makes filing claims and handling legal proceedings much more efficient. The primary benefit of e-filing is its convenience, for those who may not have the time or means to make it to the courthouse to file their documents in person.
Another feature in some of the newer innovations of e-filing includes the ability to see the case in a timeline format, from when the case was first opened, to exactly when each document, piece of evidence or statement was introduced. Not only that, but some e-filing systems contain internal linking abilities to the documents within a case file. Say for example, a lawyer is reading an update on the case that contains a reference to “exhibit F,” an affidavit supporting the claims being made in the update.
With the internal linking ability, the lawyer will be able to click on the piece of evidence (the affidavit in this case) being referenced and pull up said evidence for review without digging through boxes of documents. This is more than just a time-saver for clients who have struggled with traditional filing methods, but also for the lawyers arguing the case, as they can allocate more energy to strategy and presentation without the distraction of sifting through boxes of evidence and documents.
For a car accident lawyer, these electronic systems give us new tools which were unavailable to us prior to e-filing. In an ADA case I recently handled, I was able to search through thousands of filings by an attorney, parse out the ADA cases, and dynamically link the opposing counsel that most often defended that attorney’s cases.
When it was clear that there was a pattern of suspicious behavior, I contacted the defendants, learned that they had all been contacted by both the plaintiff’s attorney and the defense attorney within hours of each other, and realized there was a clear pattern of solicitation and suspected collusion between this particular plaintiff attorney and defense attorney. I was able to show this pattern to the defense counsel and, within hours, was successful in having the case dismissed. This kind of data manipulation would have been impossible to prove without e-filing tools and the knowledge of how to intelligently coordinate data.
The rise of blockchain technology has been a big topic of conversation, especially in recent years due to the popularity of cryptocurrency. Blockchain is a cutting-edge digital ledger that creates decentralized records of peer-to-peer transactions—useful because it allows immediate funds payments and transfers without the need for financial institutions.
There are a number of practical uses for blockchain technology in law as well, particularly because it accommodates smart contracts, and sets terms and conditions that can be automated by the likes of blockchain technology. Blockchain technology also has the ability to record events for a long duration, which may help with intellectual property claims or criminal charges related to specific cases.
In particular, blockchains can be useful for attorneys setting up “low-trust” contract relationships. There are many times when one party may be concerned that the other party will not be willing or able to complete the terms of a contract. In an instance like this, a block chain “smart contract” can include terms and conditions which automatically execute when certain tiers of the contract are met.
For example, assume Party A wants to hire Party B to perform three tasks, which Party B will be paid as each task is completed. Party A links her financial institution to a blockchain contact. The information is encrypted, so there is no risk to Party A. The financial institution sets aside funds to pay Party B, so there is likewise no risk to Party B that A will be unable to pay at the end of the contract. Each task is linked to a digitally verifiable condition, such as the upload of a file, an ERP transaction, or the filing of a document to a server. Once that condition is met, the blockchain contract itself, not a person, verifies the condition and then pays Party B.
Moreover, the contract is built into the blockchain, which is a secure database, and is distributed over many computers. Therefore, there is no file which could be deleted or lost. It is tamper-resistant, since blockchains automatically create a history of transactions and verify any changes with other computers in the blockchain network. As such, there is therefore minimal ability for any party to commit fraud by changing the contract terms.
3D printing is one of the newest and most cutting-edge developments in the realm of technology, with the ability for a car accident lawyer to produce very complex shapes and figures with minimal effort through the use of a computer-aided design model. To build these designs, the 3D printer extrudes molten plastic through a small nozzle, moving with precision to layer the plastic into the shape programed into the computer.
Although 3D printers may not seem to have an immediate application in law at first glance, there is a huge benefit for lawyers, especially those who frequently handle personal injury, assault and battery, or car accident cases. These cases are typically grounded on the type and extent of injuries sustained, and the severity of the incident, which is a message better conveyed when the judge or jury can review tangible examples, rather than just after-math pictures and retellings. With a 3D printer, a lawyer can recreate their client’s injuries from a CT scan or MRI with a 3D model of a broken bone that is able to be examined and handled throughout the courtroom. Additionally, lawyers arguing a car accident case can create a 3D model of the accident itself, detailing any damage to property in a realistic way for the court to review.
In a recent case in which I was involved, the insurance adjuster questioned whether my client actually needed a spinal fusion surgery. We were able to take a CT scan of my client’s lumbar spine, mark exactly where the vertebrae were impacting the nerves, and show the adjuster exactly how much more compressed those vertebrae were when compared to a normal spine. The adjuster ended up more than doubling his offer to my client and we were able to resolve the case.
Virtual reality is another form of technology with which our society has barely scratched the surface, particularly speaking as a car accident lawyer. Creating simulated experiences to those found in the real world, virtual reality technology allows a user to visualize and partake in moments that would be otherwise unattainable. For example, when a car accident lawyer argues a case, the use of virtual reality could be used to recreate the incident in the place that it occurred to give the viewers or jury a far more immersive perspective.
Innovations in virtual reality could eventually allow a jury to be transported to the scene of a crime or incident, allowing them to get a firsthand feeling and view of how events allegedly transpired. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, witnesses, and judges will all one day benefit from being able to utilize virtual reality to get more accurate visualizations of the information being reviewed in court.
Outside of the courtroom, there are yet more examples of how virtual reality can change an attorney’s perspective of a case. I recently represented a client who was found in pool of blood in a warehouse. Unfortunately, he was severely brain damaged, and was unable to tell us how or why he was injured. My expert took several 360 degree and 3D photographs and videos, which we uploaded to virtual reality helmets for the attorneys in my office. Our team of attorneys was able, over the next several weeks, to virtually inspect the accident scene dozens of times while forming new theories of the case as more details evolved. We were able to return, again and again, to the scene to check a detail or look at a newly important piece of evidence – something that is impossible in a traditional, one-shot inspection. Viewing the scene through virtual reality offered an actual optical perspective that would have been impossible to represent in a traditional, 2d photograph. That advantage ended up being critical to ultimately being able to describe how the injuries occurred in the case.
Another development that may become more prevalent is the use of video chat during pre-litigation and perhaps even in the courtroom by a car accident lawyer. Some states have now begun to allow video-conference technology, such as Skype or Facetime, to replace the rule of actual personal appearance for notaries. Some lawyers now attend inspections with similar technologies, and more are using them to bring specialized, out-of-state experts to a scene. The benefits are obvious: lesser travel costs and more flexibility in choosing an expert, although with the proviso that an expert who is physically present is certainly going to be more credible to a jury.
In the future, we may also see expanded use of video conference court appearances, with experts and doctors testifying “live”, but from their office or home. It is possible that greater acceptance of video conference experts will even supplant the traditional videotaped deposition. Certainly, I think a jury would be more interested in a “live” witness, even if only through video conferencing, than in the dry recorded testimony of that same witness. “Live” testimony would be more dynamic, and would better able to address the issues and questions that arise during any particular trial as opposed to a static recording.
What’s to Come for a Car Accident Lawyer
As technology continues to advance, we will surely see more advancements in law, both in the courtroom, and out of it. The courtrooms of today will look nothing like the courtroom in 2050. Who knows? We may even see physical juries replaced by jurors who “log into” the courtroom, and have access to a myriad of tools that we are now only beginning to design. It is certainly an exciting time to be an attorney, and it is of critical importance to be aware of new technology and accept it to build a successful law practice.
An abridged version of this article first appeared in Law.com’s Legaltech News.