You get in a car accident. You post about it on Facebook. Status update: you just made a huge mistake.
If social media is a reflection of our lives, it’s a really bad one — like some warped, funhouse mirror where the most distorted part is one’s smile. Our instagram selfies are gilded with filters; our Facebook posts are effusions of glee: the best time, we just had; ate the tastiest meal; pet the cutest Corgi wearing the cutest bowtie. Had the greatest, most awesomest, most mostest good day. The happiest we have ever been.
It’s a veneer of false positivity, because appearances so often matter. We don’t want people to see the ugly parts of our lives, so instead we present are our greatest hits. When it comes to social dynamics, this context is important. Where the rule of law is concerned? It’s absolutely meaningless. On the floor of a courtroom, tangible evidence is the reality we go by — and each and every one of your posts can be leveraged by the opposition to torpedo your personal injury case.
Perhaps you were rear-ended, and now live with a debilitating back pain. Even just one photo of you sitting on the beach — whether or not it took way too many ibuprofen to get you there — could be used to discredit your claim. If you’re so hurt, why are you out having fun? Why are you taking selfies at the gym in your cute, new Lululemon leggings? Why are you even BUYING workout gear? You have a back injury, after all!
It might sound absurd, doesn’t it? For better or worse, it’s reality.
Consider this scenario: would someone who now suffers from emotional distress really go out dancing? Well, of course they would. Our ability to enjoy life doesn’t go away completely in the wake of traumatic experiences. Even in the throes of the deepest, darkest depression you won’t spend every waking moment in misery — and it’s ridiculous to think that someone might. A smile might break through the sadness because you heard a funny joke. Or you may have been dragged by your belt loops out onto the dance floor of a rooftop bar because your significant other thought it would be good for you. And there, for the briefest of seconds, you forgot.
To anyone who’s ever smiled through pain, this is obvious. But in the court of law, perception is very often reality. A defendant’s lawyers will do anything they can to poke holes in your case — that’s their job, after all. Their only goal is to make sure you get as little compensation as possible. Getting their hands on every social media post you’ve ever made is now a standard practice, and the discovery process allows them to do so.
This is why it’s so important to refrain from posting or saying anything on social media (or anywhere, really), that might jeopardize your claim — photos especially. Even the appearance of having fun can be damaging. That isn’t to say that you should abstain from social media in its entirety (though it wouldn’t hurt your case if you did), but you do need to think ahead and ask yourself: how might this be received.
Before the internet existed, we had private investigators. Entire fraud cases were adjudicated because claimant with a so-called back injury was caught doing yard work on a hidden camera. Back then, sinking someone’s case with contrary evidence was a little more difficult. In 2019, the evidence is practically handed over on a silver platter; people post it themselves!
It can be just as bad if you’re a defendant. If you’ve been accused of negligence following a car crash, and then even obliquely indicate on social media that you’re sorry for what happened, your words of remorse — nevermind their context — can and will be read as an admission of guilt.
Even if you post on Twitter as little as, “I just crashed my car,” that’s music to a lawyer’s ears. To a judge? It’s an admission of liability.
Social media is both a lawyer’s worst nightmare and the greatest invention since sliced bread. Which one it is depends entirely upon which side of the court they’re sitting. If there’s anything you should take away from this article, it’s the following.
Here are the six things you should never, ever post on social media:
- Admissions of fault. If you do, you will total your case faster than you did your car.
- Admissions of guilt or remorse. Trust us, you’ll be sorry you did.
Evidence that minimizes your injuries. Especially not photos of you having a pillow fight with your kids. Yes, it’s cute. Yes, it was fun. Yes your honor, that is me being hit in the face by my eight-year-old.
Photos from the accident scene. Keep your cards close to your chest. Don’t tip your hand to the opposition by giving them early access to the best evidence you have. Save them for your lawyer.
Angry or vengeful posts. If you’re mad, you have every right to be. But speaking ill of your opposition will be seen as ugly, and no go down well in the courtroom.
Musings about money. It’s very possible that your claim could bring you substantial compensation, but if a lawyer can try to paint you as being “just in it for the money,” you’ll have to fight that much hard to prove them wrong.
Comments from family or witness can also kill your case. And don’t just think that you can make your account friends only. Though a lawyer might not be able to see what you’ve written, someone you’re friends with might unwittingly divulge some damaging information if pressed.
To be clear, our purpose with this article is not to encourage lying or perjury, or to suggest that you avoid people capturing you “living life” while your case makes its way through the courts. Our intention is to help you understand that every action you make in the real world or online can have long-lasting consequences. If you’re about to become party to a lawsuit, you must be prepared for entire life being put under a microscope, even if you have done nothing ‘wrong’.
Have a serious injury and need legal advice?
Contact Howard Blau.
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“Evidence of Life on Facebook.” The Slate Group. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
“Here’s How Social Media Can Be Used Against You In Court.” Forbes Media. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
“Beaten by Social Media: Certainty and Social Media Evidence.” JURIST. Retrieved 23 April 2019.