February 2, 2023 – Guido Gurrera
ChatGPT Told Me that I Should Speak to an Attorney
Why AI and Bots in the Legal Profession Should be Taken with a Grain of Salt
Chat GPT, The Automated Legal Scholar
In November 2022, OpenAI launched ChatGPT, and since then, social media has been abuzz about something called “AI.”
GPT stands for Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, but the technology is better described as a conversation-style AI chatbot. The user types in a prompt, or question, and GPT generates a response. Not only does the bot answer questions, but it has the capability to write code, compose poetry, tell jokes, and other functions. The phenomenon of ChatGPT has also renewed questions about the use of AI in the legal field. While algorithms have been used for some time in e-discovery, more recently AI has been applied to drafting legal contracts, writing, and for checking citations.
Several new companies have sprung-up in this legal-tech space, such as Lex Machina, Lawgeex, and CS Disco. Even the ever-popular Westlaw offers an AI-powered product named “Edge” for legal research.
Is AI and tech ready to practice law?
However, not all uses of technology in the legal arena have been positive. Several states use algorithms to determine bail amounts or predict recidivism rates in criminal cases for sentencing purposes. These algorithms have come under scrutiny as being unreliable and even racially biased.
How far can technology go in the law? What are the ethical implications of employing AI? Will lawyers even be necessary in the future? Will judges be replaced with computers? The long-term answers for these questions won’t be known for some time. But one question we can assess at this point in time is:
Can you, and should you, rely on ChatGPT for legal advice?
My name is Lawrence (Guido) Gurrera and I have over a decade of experience serving as a personal injury attorney and civil litigator. Off the bat, my professional answer is that you should only rely on a licensed attorney to provide legal advice.
Still, I wanted to test ChatGPT and see for myself. So, I took the bot for a test drive.
Testing the Legal Bot
I decided to ask ChatGPT some questions concerning the state of law in Pennsylvania. I asked it to explain the concept in Pennsylvania insurance law of “limited tort.”
In Pennsylvania, every single person who purchases a policy of personal automobile insurance has to select either full tort or the limited tort alternative. It is a preliminary question in evaluating the merits of any motor vehicle accident case. And it is a concept that is commonly misunderstood.
I began to type:
Explain the legal concept of full tort as opposed to limited tort in Pennsylvania law.
And with astonishing speed, the response pecked back on the screen:
ChatGPT : In Pennsylvania, there are two options for car insurance coverage: full tort and limited tort. Full tort coverage allows the policy holder to seek full compensation for any injuries they suffer in an accident, including pain and suffering, while limited tort coverage limits the policy holder’s ability to seek such compensation. Policy holders who choose limited tort coverage typically pay lower insurance premiums, but they may not be able to recover the full amount of damages that they would be entitled to under a full tort policy. In order to recover damages for pain and suffering under a limited tort policy, the policy holder must have suffered a “serious injury” as defined by Pennsylvania law.
Boom! ChatGPT delivered a general conversational response that is on par with what you would find if you searched Google for the answer. The answer isn’t 100% complete as it leaves out some important information, but it is generally correct and hits the major point.
I then typed a follow-up question: What is a ‘serious injury’ as defined by Pennsylvania law?
GPT quickly responded.
ChatGPT: Pennsylvania law defines a “serious injury” as one that results in death, serious impairment of a body function, or permanent serious disfigurement. Some examples of injuries that may be considered “serious” under this definition include:
Fractures or dislocations of bones
Loss of a limb or permanent loss of use of a limb
Loss of sight or permanent blindness
Loss of hearing or permanent deafness
Serious head injuries, such as traumatic brain injury
Spinal cord injuries
It’s worth noting that whether an injury is considered “serious” is determined on a case-by-case basis and the insurance company has the right to challenge the severity of the injury.
Again, the information is presented in a way that is relatively easy to understand and it is comparable to what you might find on a law firm’s website about the topic. It isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is mostly correct and provides some good examples.
Yet, the bot isn’t always right, though.
In some answers, ChatGPT provided wrong information. There were other situations where the answer left out information that would certainly be relevant to a decision. For those reasons, I would encourage anyone to take its responses with a grain of salt.
However, ChatGPT actually pointed out its limitations and made it clear that you should consult a real attorney for advice.
The Conclusion on AI in the Law
My concluding opinion was formed after asking it to apply a particular set of facts to the law and decide whether the injuries and damages would overcome the limited tort threshold.
The bot punted on giving an answer and recommended that I consult a knowledgeable attorney:
ChatGPT: It is possible that your situation meets the limited tort threshold in Pennsylvania, which would allow you to recover full economic and noneconomic damages in the event of a motor vehicle accident. …
It is always recommended that you speak with a personal injury attorney who is familiar with Pennsylvania law to evaluate your case and determine the best course of action. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options, and can provide guidance on how to pursue compensation for your damages.
This is how it should be. ChatGPT is a great tool for getting general information on the law (and on a myriad of other topics) quickly. It is also really entertaining, efficient, and surprisingly creative for a robot.
However, it isn’t a substitute for legal advice – that should be left to us humans.