By Alan Cooper
For years, the personal injury firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen has provided a glove compartment guide with information about what to do after a traffic accident.
Welcome to 2011.
Another guide is now available as My Lawyer - Travels with Me, a free application for the iPhone and Android smartphones.
Accidents and their aftermath "can be a really confusing time. People are scared," says Courtney A. Van Winkle, a partner at the firm.
It's comforting for them to be able to refer quickly to something they're likely to have handy and are familiar with, she added.
The home screen for the application has a big 911 button and another button to enter the application. Entering the app takes the user to buttons labeled "Accident," "Rights," and, since the firm is the Virginia sponsor of the app, "Contact Allen & Allen."
The "Accident" button takes the user to buttons labeled "Now," "Later" and Future," with the "Now" button leading to forms to fill in information about the operator of the other vehicle, witnesses and police. The other buttons have forms for information that might develop later, such as medical bills and missed work.
There's also a button to press to begin taking photos of the scene. All that information can be sent electronically to the law firm.
"It's a great tool for keeping information that you're going to use later," Van Winkle said.
Van Winkle said the firm and its developer are constantly updating and improving the app. As an example, the link to the firm's website pops up a version that's designed for a computer screen rather than a smartphone. A mobile-ready version of the site should be available within a few days, she said.
The product was created by Fuzzy Thinkers Inc., a firm that specializes in developing utilities for mobile phones, and it's marketed by California-based MyLawyerLLC. It is available to only one law firm per state. Bacchus & Schanker LLC in Colorado was the first and only other firm so far that is using the app.
Emily Krause, Allen and Allen's marketing manager, said the firm pays an annual fee for the exclusive use of the app in Virginia.
The firm had considered developing a similar application on its own but was approached by My Lawyer and concluded it "had everything we needed. It gave us the ability get the app out much faster."
The app clearly isn't for everyone, she acknowledged, but "it's for a certain group of people who do everything through technology."
The forms on the app are designed to collect "the things that so many of our clients didn't get at the scene," she said.
That information will be valuable to accident victims whether they retain the firm or negotiate with the insurance company on their own, she said.
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