Can you imagine your life without Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? Social media platforms have become an intrinsic part of our lives to varying degrees, or at least the statistics say so. According to the 2019 Global Digital suite of reports from We Are Social and Hootsuite, there are 3.48 billion social media users around the world, i.e., 45% of the world uses social media. The average user spends one-seventh of their waking lives on these platforms.
In the age of photos, videos, hashtags, tweets and status updates, social media platforms have become a new form of human interaction. However, this virtual life is not always rosy and can create problems, especially when it comes to personal injury claims. After all, evidence is the key to any personal injury lawsuit and your online presence can testify as to whether your injuries have really hampered your life. Read on to learn how social media can affect your personal injury claim.
The Role of Social Media in Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
How Social Media Posts Can be Detrimental to Your Lawsuit
Individuals file personal injury lawsuits when they suffer physical injuries, emotional stress, or loss of income or employment because of a car, slip & fall, pedestrian hit or motorcycle accident. The claim amount is based on the severity of the injuries sustained and how they have affected the victim’s daily life, mental peace and financial health.
To substantiate these damages, the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer will attempt to prove that the accident caused irreversible or serious damages that are hampering the victim’s life or ability to work. In fact, a claimant usually calls on a doctor or other specialists to testify on their behalf. On the other hand, the defence lawyer will attempt to prove that the claimant’s damages are not nearly as severe as they purport. To do so, they look toward the plaintiff’s social media profiles.
Take for example a claimant who has suffered a leg injury in a car crash and is seeking damages for chronic pain, loss of mobility and an inability to enjoy physical activities. What if your social media posts suggest otherwise? Maybe you have posted Facebook photos of yourself riding a bicycle with your friends while smiling. This may become a piece of evidence for the defence. In turn the judge may rule that you are not entitled to compensation because your social media posts show that your injuries have not affected your physical capabilities and enjoyment of life.
Is Social Media a Reliable Source of Court Evidence?
Social media has changed how people perceive, interact and what they believe, but its credibility has been questioned. What you see on these platforms isn’t always true. Those posts from Instagram influencers who seem to lead a dream vacation-like lifestyle are not always a true representation of their lives. As far as civil litigation is concerned, lawyers need to stay alert to the fact that people frequently portray an image online which is not necessarily factual. Many social media users present a hyper-idealistic version of themselves in their virtual life, no matter how haphazard the reality is. After all, social media users can post old photos and videos online, giving the impression that they are active, healthy and happy when, in reality, they are suffering.
Social media is a difficult kind of evidence and should not be the primary reason to lead a personal injury lawsuit or any other case. The photos, status updates and videos on these platforms are only a small snapshot of what people want others to see and believe about them.
However, in this trend towards a virtual social life, the general perception of you is often formed by looking at their Facebook or Instagram profiles. That’s why stories shared on these platforms may be relied upon by defendants to illustrate that it is inconsistent with the claim being made against them.
Admissibility of Social Media Evidence
Ontario courts allow access to a personal injury claimant’s social media accounts only if the defence can prove that it is relevant to proving a fact in the case. There have been several cases in Canada where allegedly relevant social media evidence proved admissible in court. However, it is up to the judge to decide whether it was of value in proving an issue while ensuring it does not invade the injured party’s privacy.
Social Media Tips to Protect Your Personal Injury Claim
If you don’t want your social media accounts used to devalue or deny your personal injury compensation, make sure you follow these tips.
- Think carefully before posting anything on social media. It is not necessary to post every minute detail of your life on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or similar platforms. These could harm your case.
- Don’t lie about your injuries, not least because you are likely to get caught.
- Accept friends and follow requests only from people you know personally, especially if your lawsuit is in progress.
- Don’t put anything related to your claim on social media that you would not want the insurance company to see. This includes information about your treatments, conversations with your personal injury lawyer, photos of you engaging in activities (if you suffered a physical injury) or photos of you socializing (if you are suffering from emotional trauma).
The power of social media not only allows you to express yourself and connect with friends; it can also jeopardize your injury claims by using your posts against you. On the one hand, it can invade the privacy of a victim who is genuinely trying to seek compensation for their injuries. On the other, it can undermine fake accident claims. Simply put, social media has changed how personal injury cases are handled. That’s why it is advisable for claimants to post sensibly while their case is ongoing. Your best bet is to consult with your personal injury lawyer to make sure you don’t end up making any costly mistakes.