Snapchat Named in Car Accident Injury Lawsuit

A man injured in a car accident last year is suing not only the young driver who slammed into him, but the social media platform on which she was allegedly engaged at the time of the wreck. phone

According to the complaint in Maynard v. McGee and Snapchat, filed in a Georgia state court, plaintiff alleges a critical cause of the crash was the mobile software produced and made available by Snapchat.

For those unfamiliar, Snapchat is a messaging app that allows users to take photos or videos and than add a caption, doodle or lens graphic over the top and send it to a friend. Users can also create “stories” and broadcast them publicly – either to everyone or just to your followers. Some of these images can only be viewed for a short period of time before they disappear. 

What does this have to do with car accidents? A recently-added feature to the app allows users to track their speed and then superimpose that speed onto an image taken by the user. Points are issued to those who use this feature. Snapchat insists there are many reasonable uses for this feature. For example, runners may want to capture their speed and their picture to share with friends.

However, plaintiff alleges the app clearly encourages users to play on their phones while driving, posing a serious health and safety hazard not only to themselves but to others.

The facts of this case unfolded in September 2015 in Spalding County, GA. According to the complaint, an 18-year-old driver with two friends in the car was driving her father’s Mercedes Benz on a Thursday at around 11:15 p.m. She reportedly wanted to post an image of herself driving fast. She pushed down the accelerator and captured a speed of 80 mph on her device. She then allegedly dialed up the speed to 90 mph. Then, 100 mph.

Soon after, the complaint alleges, plaintiff lost control of her vehicle. At 107 mph, the complainant alleges, she shot across the left lane and struck plaintiff’s vehicle, sending it careening off the road down an embankment. Plaintiff, who had just begun his shift as an Uber driver, was seriously injured. He incurred a traumatic brain injury. He spent more than a month in the intensive care unit. His weight plummeted by 50 pounds. He is now unable to work. He can no longer take care of himself.

Meanwhile, the teen driver reportedly snapped another picture of herself, while in the ambulance. Lying on a stretcher, blood dripping down her face, she took a selfie, and captioned it, “Lucky to be Alive.”

Indeed.

Plaintiff in this car accident lawsuit says Snapchat should have known the risk it was creating because other users had used the device for this very same purpose. In fact, one user allegedly posted a snap of himself driving his vehicle at speeds of more than 140 mph. What’s more, the company incentivized this behavior by giving users points (albeit worthless points) for uploading their speeds.

For its part, the social media platform insists that it is not to be used in any way that distracts from driving or results in users violating traffic safety laws. This disclaimer exists in its terms of use. However, it’s unclear how many users actually take the time to read these notices, let alone abide them.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Snapchat ‘Speed Filter’ Led to Georgia Car Crash, Lawsuit Alleges, April 28, 2016, By Elizabeth Chuck, CNBC

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Florida Day Care Injury Prompts Police Report, April 29, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog