Can Social Media Kill Your Lawsuit?
Being the victim of an accident comes with unique challenges. Aside from recovering from your injuries, you’re probably questioning how you will make up for lost income, pay your medical bills, and move on with your life. It’s not uncommon for victims of accidents to develop other conditions such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. We understand the difficulties of being a victim of negligence and know that a support system can help you recover quickly.
Since our social interactions are so rooted in technology, it’s second nature to whip out our smartphones and tell our virtual network of friends about what happens in our lives. But if you’re in the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit, think twice about posting this information because it can negatively affect your lawsuit.
Everything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You
Over the course of litigation, you are on trial, in a sense. The defendant’s attorneys will do and say anything to derail your lawsuit and save their clients’ money. The courts recognize the power of social media, calling a source of “unrivaled evidence.” We can’t retract what we say online, even if we delete a posting. Social media posts are commonly entered as evidence, and they’re more likely to hurt your case than help it.
If you’re injured in an accident and broke an arm, and you post pictures on social media, enjoying normal activities without a sling, a jury may think you exaggerated the extent of your injuries. In effect, you damaged your legal credibility with a single post.
It’s not common for victims of personal injury to exaggerate their injuries since attorneys only accept cases with legal merit. However, social media posts are more likely to affect the amount of money you receive for general damages, such as pain and suffering.
Consider the 2010 case of Romano v. Steelcase. An office worker filed a lawsuit against a manufacturing company when her chair collapsed. In the complaint filed with the court, she reported that her injuries kept her from leaving home and socializing with friends, which amounted to considerable emotional anguish. Unfortunately, she posted pictures of herself outside of the home on social media, which the defense logged as evidence. It pointed to the number of people on her friends list, her online demeanor, and even the number of emoticons accompanying her posts. They successfully argued that the extent of her mental anguish might not be as extensive as she claimed.
Why Social Media Backfires
In our social media accounts, we tend to put our best faces forward, so it’s easy for the defense to twist evidence in their favor. Several recent studies suggest that people tend to screen their photos and posts to make them more socially desirable.
Victims of personal injury tend to forget that social media is public domain. Anything you have posted on your wall or that has been posted about you can be used against you in a court of law. Private messaging, however, can only be obtained through consent or with a warrant.
Most people assume that social media is a matter of personal privacy, but not the case. In the eyes of the law, your social media accounts are subject to personal scrutiny. So don’t post about your case or your injuries. In fact, if you’re in the process of litigating a personal injury case, your lawyer may advise against posting at all. Oftentimes, attorneys will recommend that you suspend all social media accounts until after the lawsuit has been settled. Think through the consequences of your actions and consult with your attorney before posting anything online.