Globally, we have become reliant on social media platforms. They are a source of fulfillment on many fronts, keeping us connected, informed and entertained. But they are increasingly being used for another purpose: Evidence.
This is true of course for law enforcement, combing for evidence of threats or probation violations or gang activity. However, they are also used in personal injury lawsuits, which is why it has become more and more prevalent to our practice.
On one hand, social media can be a benefit. For example, let’s say an at-fault truck driver was believed to have been playing around on Snapchat, got distracted and caused the crash. That digital evidence can be used to our client’s advantage to prove not only negligence, but perhaps gross negligence warranting punitive damages. On the other hand, social media has become something of a burden as well because defendants – particularly insurance companies – comb these platforms for any evidence that might help them dispute causation or the extent of damages.
A Pew Research Center report revealed 74 percent of adults who use the internet (which is pretty much everybody) also uses social media. That means an increasingly broad impact on our cases.
How Social Media Can Hurt Your Physical Injury Claim
In the overwhelming majority of cases, personal injury claims in Maine involve some type of physical injury. This could be a concussion or broken bone or extensive scarring or chronic pain. For these injuries, plaintiffs want to seek damages for two things: Expenses associated with those injuries (i.e., medical bills) and Non-economic damages (i.e., pain and suffering, emotional trauma, mental anguish, loss of life enjoyment, loss of consortium, etc.). In proving these two elements, your Portland Maine personal injury attorney is going to use a variety of sources, including:
- Medical records
- Medical experts
- Other witnesses (i.e., family and friends)
These individuals can attest to the extent of the injury, to prove the defendant’s negligence is what caused it and how it affected you.
Meanwhile, it’s the job of the defense team to prove the opposite – to find evidence that the defendant’s actions weren’t negligent, to show defendant’s actions weren’t the cause of your injuries or that the injuries/ damages aren’t as severe as you allege. One of the best sources for this information? Your social media profile.
This is true even when your profile isn’t public.
Here’s an example: You suffer a slip-and-fall in a grocery store. You used to enjoy an active lifestyle – i.e., hiking, swimming, running races, etc. You can’t do that anymore. But a social media photograph shows you smiling and enjoying a boat outing with friends after the accident. This can be used as evidence that not only are your physical injuries not as serious as you say but that you haven’t suffered any profound or serious emotional trauma that has affected your normal relationships. There have even been cases wherein smiley-face emoticons were used as evidence plaintiff hadn’t suffered emotional trauma.
Courts have ruled that social media profiles are public records. In fact, anything you post about yourself – or that others post about you – on the internet can be used as evidence against you. This is why our injury attorneys generally advise temporarily suspending all of your social media accounts while your case is pending. At minimum, make sure your account is set to private and accept no new friend requests.
If you have questions about social media use while your personal injury lawsuit is pending, our experienced legal team can help.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Could Social Media Impact Your Personal Injury Claim? May 9, 2016, By Stephanie R. Caudle, The Huffington Post