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Social Media Posts Examined in Personal Injury Cases

Car accident victims – those who are able and well enough to engage in social media after the accident – must be cautious about the things they post after the accident. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to go over some ground rules with your attorney, once you’ve secured representation. computer1

At first, many clients are puzzled by this. After all, why would it matter? The facts of the case won’t be altered by a few posted photographs or smiley faces, right?

Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. Of course, what happened at the crash site won’t change. But what’s really at issue is proof of the injuries suffered, which can directly affect how much compensation you receive in the event you win your case.

The most obvious example is someone who claims to have suffered diminished use of an arm, only to post photos of themselves kayaking or bowling. That damages one’s credibility and also suggests their injuries aren’t nearly as severe as what they have indicated in their original complaint.

But beyond that, and what was primarily the topic of exploration by a recent Slate.com article by Reporter Amanda Hess, is that such postings can directly impact compensation by diminishing the perceived level of mental anguish and pain and suffering.

One of the cases cited as a personal injury lawsuit was that of Romano v. Steelcase, which involves a woman in New York who allegedly suffered serious injury to her back when a purportedly defective work chair collapsed while she was sitting in it. In the product liability lawsuit she filed soon after, she alleged the injury left her largely confined to her home, isolated from friends. Seeking to dispute these assertions, defendants dug around on social media. They found a few photos of her outside her home. They also noted several of her recent posts were marked with “smiley-face” emoticons. They noted the number of friends she had on social media. Based on this, they successfully made a request for access to more of her profile, which had been set to private.

And this is something else too many clients fail to consider: Your private page is not private, no matter what your settings. One must consider that anything posted on these pages can potentially be dragged out to be used later in court. In some cases, even deleted posts or images can come back to haunt.

That’s why these cases require strong representation. The fact is, most people tend to project a sunnier disposition on social media sites than may actually exist. That’s a normal extension of the fact that humans tend to “put on a happy face” in public. It doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t truly suffering or unhappy.

A 2012 paper published in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law noted people are more likely to selectively screen photographs on social media in a way that allows them to seem socially desirable. They are less likely to capture moments on camera that show loneliness, embarrassment and sadness in the first place. But even when they do, they are less likely to post it.

So the value of the information gleaned from social media can be called into question. The problem is, jurors tend to give it a lot of weight because the direct source is the plaintiff. And it’s not that these projections are false, but rather they don’t show the whole picture.

Having an experienced lawyer by your side not only to guide you through these thorny issues pre-trial, but also to make these points to a judge and jury in a courtroom puts you at a key advantage.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Evidence of Life on Facebook, April 29, 2015, By Amanda Hess, Slate.com

More Blog Entries:

Jones v. Alayon – Challenging the Seat Belt Defense, April 25, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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