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Why Your Cell Phone Matters: 5 Lessons from the United Airlines PR Disaster

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North Charleston, SCYou’d have to be under a rock the last week to have missed the story of David Dao, a Chinese-American passenger who was forcibly removed from an overbooked United Airlines flight after resisting his removal. The media has been all over this blatant example of excessive force; and so they should. It’s violent, visceral, and reminds us that everyday people can be pushed around by the systems of “big companies” whether they like it or not.

Between this recent United Airlines scandal, and the cases we’ve seen splattered across the news in the last few years (how many videos have you seen on social media capturing car chases, violent crimes, acts of injustice and deadly accidents?) we’ve all been exposed to the power of technology in capturing and reporting crimes.

In fact, in the last few years, it feels like we have seen more crimes against everyday people by law enforcement and, in many cases, by civilians against other civilians. Are we experiencing a “rise in crime?” Experts say that crimes against, and within, certain populations have always been known; it is simply that we are now, quite literally, seeing more evidence of it thanks to social media and the rise in video and photos taken from cell phone and mobile devices.

Research suggests that 95 percent of people now own a mobile device of some kind. How can these devices impact our daily lives in ways we’ve never imaged? As everyday people going about our daily grind, why should we care? When it comes to accidents and injuries, it turns out they can impact a whole lot.

As a local personal injury attorney, based out of North Charleston, I have first-hand knowledge of just how powerful your cell phone is. This is especially true when it comes to accidents of any kind. A car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident and more. This includes a “slip and fall” injury and even workers’ comp. When it comes to anything that falls under the blanket of, what is known as, personal injury law, your cell phone can be hugely important. Most people will experience at least one car accident in their lifetime-- so listen up and learn so you know how to take charge when an accident occurs!


1. Everyone is a potential witness.

Thanks to technology, everyone can witness and see your accident. Your friends, family, co-workers and countless strangers across the country are all people who could be exposed to your incident. On a personal level, this may be disconcerting to you; we all value our privacy. Consider this your reminder that anyone out there can snap pics or record video of things that happen in the public eye at any time. It may blur the legal lines, but in some way, pics and videos captured are considered “fair game” in personal injury cases.

2. You can secure your own evidence...

On the scene of an accident, you can be the best asset you have working for you. The camera in your phone can secure evidence that is crucial to your case. Especially if your case will come down to a matter of “she said, he said.” You can use your phone to snap the following:

Tire skid marks left on the pavement,
Road debris from your car or debris that got in the way and caused your accident,
Objects that blocked your view, like trees or lampposts and things that “shouldn’t be there” but are,
A 360-degree view of the accident scene, and
Damage to your car, and all other vehicles involved in the accident.

You can also use your phone to snap license plates, driver's’ license and insurance information for other parties involved.

3 … But you better watch what you post!

Social media is great, but you better be careful what you share online! In fact, any personal injury law firm will advise that you post nothing (yes, zip those lips!) about your accident or injury online. The more you talk, the greater chance your words can be used against you. It is much better to be safe than sorry. That pic you just snapped in the ER while bandaged up? Don’t you dare Instagram it! Don’t Snap from the scene, or Tweet your followers. Any pictures or video you capture should be used only as your attorney directs.

4. Be aware of the “YouTube effect.”

Law enforcement is not tuned out to the concept that regular people with cell phones have power. They have dubbed this the “YouTube effect,” and it is used to describe the rise in civilians using their mobile devices to show law enforcement in a negative light, regardless if those filmed are doing their job by the books or not.

As a civilian, if you are on the right side of the law, know that you are arming yourself. In an article from the Washington Times, a representative of the Superior Officers Association even went as far as to say that this “really dictates how a police officer reacts today.”

Just the same, if you have broken the law, the video and evidence you capture could easily be used against you. This is especially true if you are not complying with law enforcement.

5. The court of public opinion is legit.

While your accident case may appear to be cut and dry, there is a jury of “public opinion” that can still come into play. Which, of course, is made all the more possible by any video or pics that you, or other parties involved in your accident, capture as evidence. Public scrutiny and attention probably won’t determine the outcome of your litigation, but it can color the experience you have during the process. It can affect how those involved see you and, even more importantly, how others in your life see you. Which means the effect of your accident could be felt long after your case has closed, compensation has been awarded, and you are back to life.

In short, here’s the idea to run with- your mobile device is a VERY powerful tool when it comes to your personal injury case. You have to exercise caution with what you capture and how you share it; the same video that can work to your advantage can also crack your claim in half over it’s knee like a ninja with a wooden board if it’s used incorrectly. If you’ve already been in an accident, have cell phone video or pictures and are unsure of if they will help or hinder you, your best bet to ask an experienced attorney. They can educate you as to how your evidence can be used and if this can affect the trajectory of your claim."

Attorney Bill GreenSouth Carolina-based personal injury lawyer Bill Green has been serving the community for over 25 years. His law firm has offices in North Charleston and Columbia, where Green and his dedicated team focus on offering client-centric representation. A graduate of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this Tarheel has a passion for serving and has dedicated his career to helping clients navigate the challenging times after an accident occurs, while fighting for their representation. “The best kind of attorney is the one you never need,” says Green, widely known in SC as the community watchdog, "but when you do need one, we’re here to help!”


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