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Are Cell Phone Records Discoverable After a Car Accident in California?


Distracted driving has become a major concern on the roads today, with cell phone usage being one of the primary sources of distraction. In California, as in many states, using a cell phone while driving is illegal. Following a car accident, it may be necessary to determine if a driver was using their cell phone at the time of the incident. In this article, we explore the question of whether cell phone records are discoverable after a car accident in California, and under what circumstances they may be obtained.


California's Cell Phone Laws


In California, it is against the law for a driver to use a handheld cell phone while driving, as outlined in the California Vehicle Code Sections 23123 and 23123.5. Drivers are prohibited from holding and operating a cell phone or electronic wireless communications device, except in a hands-free mode. This prohibition includes texting, reading, or writing messages on a cell phone.


Cell Phone Records as Evidence


In personal injury cases, evidence is crucial in establishing the cause of the accident and determining who is at fault. In cases where cell phone use may have played a role in the accident, obtaining the records can be a vital piece of evidence.


In California, courts have recognized that cell phone records may be discoverable as they can be relevant and material to the issues in a lawsuit. However, simply suspecting that the other driver was using their cell phone is not enough to access their records.


To obtain cell phone records in a car accident case, the party seeking the records must demonstrate a compelling need for the records and establish that the records are likely to contain evidence that is relevant to the case. This is typically done through a subpoena.


Privacy Concerns


While cell phone records can be crucial in proving distracted driving, there is a balance to be struck between obtaining relevant evidence and protecting an individual's right to privacy. California's constitution provides a strong privacy protection for its citizens, and courts are careful to avoid unnecessary invasion of privacy.


When requesting cell phone records, the party seeking the records must demonstrate that the information sought is narrowly tailored and directly relevant to the case. Our law firm’s experience has been that courts often require the requesting party to provide specific information about the time frame and scope of the records requested. Additionally, a protective order may be put in place to limit the dissemination of the information and to protect the privacy of the parties involved.


Conclusion


In California, cell phone records may be discoverable after a car accident if they are relevant and material to the case. However, the party seeking the records must show a compelling need for the records and establish that the records are likely to contain relevant evidence. The courts must also balance the need for the records against privacy concerns, and protective orders may be used to safeguard privacy. If you have been involved in a car accident and believe that cell phone usage played a role, please give Phillips & Associates a call to discuss your case and the best course of action.


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