Social media being used as evidence in personal injury cases

On behalf of Amalia Lucero

Online posts can be used as evidence in civil trials.

Staying positive during a difficult time can show strength of character and determination in the face of adversity. Continuing to do activities you enjoy despite physical or emotional limitations is something to be proud of. Remaining social despite personal loss is a healthy means of coping.

Unfortunately, despite the widespread encouragement of these traits and activities, if evidence of them appears online, it could hurt you in your personal injury case.

That is because defendants in personal injury lawsuits, including motor vehicle accidents and medical malpractice cases, are increasingly scouring social media for evidence that a plaintiff is not as injured as much as he or she claims to be. Despite personal testimony, medical evidence, and other information offered at trial showing that you are actually seriously injured, a picture that paints the wrong message can throw into doubt the extent of your injuries.

Social media can bring legal complications to your lawsuit

People have a complicated relationship with online social media. It can serve a variety of purposes: to connect with friends, to advocate for something you believe in, or to explore job or business opportunities. Social media also has a dark side, of course, and can be used to harass and bully others.

For these reasons, most people keep personal tragedies somewhat close to the vest when it comes to their online presence. Teens may worry about bullies; adults may worry about appearing unprofessional. Research shows that people tend to post photos and messages that make them appear healthy, happy and attractive. It is a natural tendency to show your best face to the world.

Instead of recognizing this fact, defendants looking to escape liability may point to such photos and posts as evidence that you are not really injured. Even just one profile picture can allow defendants to petition the court to obtain access to your entire online social profile, including all of your private Facebook posts.

Evidence of health matters in civil trials

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident or because of medical negligence, an important part of your case involves proving the extent of your injuries. Especially for injuries that are not always physically apparent, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, you must show a jury that you are dealing with a very real and very serious condition. While it is noble to present a brave face to the world, when involved in a personal injury lawsuit, it is best to be honest about the extent of your suffering.

In fact, it is often best that plaintiffs in a personal injury lawsuit refrain from social media posts altogether. If that is impossible, a good rule of thumb is to think about how your post, tweet or photo would look if presented as evidence before a judge. Even if the post is only intended to be shared among friends, it may find its way into the courtroom.

At Curtis & Co., our attorneys are experienced advocates for people injured through the negligence of others. If you or someone you love has been injured, contact our office to discuss your legal options and next steps.

Keywords: personal injury lawsuits, social media, damages, online profile, evidence, Facebook.

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