Social media has revolutionized the way we interact with one another. We post our favorite pictures on Instagram, update our Facebook statuses to reflect where we are and what we are doing at any given moment, and tweet our comments for all the cyber world to see. Social media is now involved in virtually all aspects of daily modern life, including shopping, relationships, healthcare, education, and plenty more.
While sharing on social media has numerous advantages when it comes to networking and keeping in touch with family and friends, it also has many disadvantages. Oversharing is a common problem on social media platforms, and revealing too much about yourself online may have a serious impact on your personal and business relationships, as well as your finances. Many people overlook the importance that social media could have on a personal injury case.
Online photos and posts are increasingly being used as evidence in court. What, where, and when you post are being used as evidence in personal injury lawsuits across the country. These posts may cast doubt on your version of events, your character, or the extent of your injuries. Examples of the types of posts that may affect a personal injury claim include the following:
- Photos or videos showing yourself engaged in physical activity, such as doing yard work, running a marathon, or going out for an evening of dancing, which can be used to disprove the injuries you claim to have suffered.
- Status updates that prove you are engaging in activities that are contrary to your injury status or to your required treatment protocol.
- Posts inadvertently admitting liability, or casting doubt as to whether you were partially to blame for your accident, can quickly come back to haunt you in court.
- Internet tracking applications, which can be used to discredit your version of the circumstances leading up to your accident, as well as the actual time your accident occurred.
While the rules of evidence may eventually find written social media postings inadmissible, it is difficult to dispute hard evidence such as pictures and videos, both of which are easily located on many of our social media sites. Make sure you don’t ruin your case by inadvertently posting critical information on social media platforms, and keep a low profile throughout the duration of your case to ensure this doesn’t become a problem.
Defense Usage in Personal Injury Cases
Defendants and their attorneys in personal injury claims are looking for evidence that runs contrary to the claims in a case. Defense attorneys have traditionally sought information from friends, neighbors, employers, even hiring private investigators to unearth useful evidence to hold against you in court. In an injury claim, the plaintiff is seeking to recover damages for the harm they have incurred; therefore, the defense may try to use your social media messages, photos, etc., as evidence of your perjury to the court or defiance of court-related proceedings. Perhaps the plaintiff’s social media profile shows they were out dancing last week while claiming in court that they can barely walk? For this reason, it is important to always consider the potential impact that sharing any posts online may have on your case.
Usage for Other Types of Damages
Personal injury cases may also include claims of emotional distress, anguish, and pain & suffering, which suggest an individual is struggling with life, mental health, and/or well-being. On social media, people tend to project their image in a positive light, which a defendant could potentially introduce as evidence that questions your credibility with regard to your case – and it often works. Defense attorneys have been known to use posts of the plaintiff where they are smiling, participating in social activities, or attending parties, as evidence that the plaintiff is embellishing the true extent of their struggles or trauma.
Social Media Posts Regarding the Defendant
Plaintiffs should avoid any temptation to post negative information about those they oppose in a civil lawsuit. People may feel like using social media to redirect anger or as a means of “venting” their problems. This is not a good idea, since it will likely hurt your credibility and be used against you by making you appear overly bitter or spiteful toward them. It is possible that an opposing party could be looking for evidence to suggest that the claim is motivated by personal reasons rather than a legitimate injury.
Overall, social media is a new form of possible evidence that the courts are still trying to work through. It is in your best interest not to post anything to your social media accounts while you are actively thinking of suing, or are in the middle of an ongoing lawsuit.
Don’t Trust Social Media Privacy Rules
Don’t depend on privacy settings to protect you from consequences in a court case. Social media platforms regularly change their privacy settings without any warning to their users. By the time you realize that information you thought was private has become public, it will be too late to do anything about it. Additionally, nothing on the Internet is really private, nor owned by you once you share it online. Someone who is motivated enough can find a way to access your social media profiles, or connect evidence against you through tracking events and data.
Let’s face it, as hard as you may try to keep things private, even if all of your settings are correct, things may be shared and passed around and end up in the wrong hands. You really have no control if someone takes a screenshot of a post, photo, or tweet, and passes it around for the world to see. If you are committed to the success of your legal case, then don’t take any chances, don’t make excuses – just don’t do it.
Don’t Give The Opposition Any Ammunition
Even if you are a 100% honest, trustworthy, forthright person, and the merits of your case are unimpeachable, a social media post can and will be decontextualized, misconstrued, and otherwise misrepresented by the opposition in an effort to impugn your character to win the case on their behalf.
When you are in front of a judge or trying to reach a settlement, whatever you intended, or what was really happening, won’t matter once something is on the Internet and presented as evidence in court. What people believe about what you intended or what was really happening is all that will matter. Just because you are fair and honest, never assume that everyone you are dealing with is as well.
Social media is a breeding ground for creating misconceptions, misunderstandings, and reasonable doubt. Your lawyer needs to advise you about the consequences and work with you if social media can be used in any way to benefit your case.
Getting Help With Your Case
No matter what kind of legal battle you are facing, you’ll want to carefully consider your use of any type of social media platform while your case is active. Gordon & Gordon Law Firm works with each of their clients to make sure everything they are doing in their personal lives, including their use of social media, has no negative impact on their case.
Following the above instructions is not meant to distort or hide the truth from the insurance company but rather to avoid giving them the chance to mischaracterize or take something out of context that could be used against you.
You can expect that, whether we are representing you in a personal injury or any other type of case, you’ll be fully equipped with all of the information you need about how your personal actions can positively and negatively impact legal outcomes. If you need representation, and want to make sure your legal team is knowledgeable about the ins-and-outs of social media and the legal implications of its use, give us a call for a no-cost consultation. We’re here to help.