Social Media and Your Personal Injury Case: Your Warning
As social media platforms continue to multiply, I am compelled to once again warn of the potential pitfalls that instagram/facebook/twitter/pinterest/google+/tinder/snapchat/youtube/tumblr/reddit/myspace/etc… posts can create for a personal injury claim. Slate.com recently published an article titled Evidence of Life on Facebook that I will recommend for all of my future clients to read.
This article references some rather dire examples of defense attorneys using Facebook posts to discredit plaintiffs who may be in very difficult and downtrodden situations. People have an overwhelming desire to exaggerate their lives on social media so as to broadcast to their audience an improved and happier version of themselves. Unfortunately, when a person is simultaneously attempting to become financially compensated for the pain and suffering that a defendant has caused them in an injury case, these exaggerated Facebook posts can be more harmful than one might expect.
Defense attorneys may acquire a photo of a smiling plaintiff taken six months after the accident and suggest to the jury that if the individual was truly as downtrodden as she claims, she would not be smiling. This seems like a laughable argument to make. However, if repeated enough times, this sliver of doubt planted in a jury-member’s mind can easily grow into a gaping hole which will, in effect, undermine an otherwise strong case against the defendant. Perhaps more believable, a defense attorney may present at trial a photo of the injured person hiking or exercising a few months post-incident to discredit the severity of that person’s injuries.
I recently represented a woman who was severely injured to the point of requiring multiple surgeries and a wheelchair for a significant amount of time. The defense attorney found a photo of my client with a beer in her hand smiling next to two friends at a party that had been posted on Facebook. When asked about the photo, my client stated that this party was the first time she had gone out socially in the ten months since her injury. The defense attorney stated to me her intention to use this photo to prove that my client was lying about her emotional injuries and that a truly injured person would not be drinking at a party with her friends. This is a discomforting take on the way one lives. However, noticeably absent from my client’s Facebook pages are any photos of her looking depressed or sad, as she claimed to be just that since her injury. Are we surprised that she’d rather not broadcast to her social network that she is sad and depressed all day because of her debilitating injury? No. However, the ramifications of this defense attorney’s argument can be devastating to one’s personal injury case.
As budgets get tighter and tighter, insurance companies and businesses look to their attorney to get more and more creative with defending injury claims in order to reduce payouts. Unfortunately, the Courts, for the most part, seem willing to allow this dangerous social media game to continue.
Be very careful what you post on your social media accounts, even if they are private. I tell my clients to simply stop posting anything at all. Many do not heed this advice. Furthermore, one must be cognizant of the photos that others are posting of you. Once you file a lawsuit for a personal injury claim, your life becomes a book open to any interpretation that a defense attorney might see fit. This is one of the many emerging topics in personal injury law that will likely continue to see media coverage and possibly new laws written to either condone or curtail the abuse. Call the Rockafellow Law Firm if you, a friend, or a loved one is involved in a personal injury that may be the fault of someone else.