Social media has become a routine part of the average American’s life. People can communicate easily with family members and friends, share views on current topics, plan events, share photographs, and interact in numerous other ways. Plus, smart devices give us the opportunity to share photographs and events instantaneously. Even newscasts often show video footage and photographs obtained from people who recorded the event on a smartphone.
Certainly, there are many positive uses of social media. But we have come to realize there are also pitfalls. Privacy concerns have been well-documented, resulting in government involvement and a series of mea culpas from some social media companies.
Which brings us to an important question: can social media affect a personal injury case? The answer is “yes,” and we’ll explain how in this blog.
Potentially Harmful Effects of Social Media
To fully understand the potential effects of social media, it helps to keep in perspective the manner in which a personal injury case will be conducted.
For example, assume a plaintiff is injured in a crash caused by a negligent automobile or semi-truck driver. The plaintiff will have claims for personal injury, property damage, non-economic harm such as pain and suffering, lost wages, and perhaps other forms of damage.
Ideally, the negligent driver has insurance. The insurer will investigate the case and supply the negligent insured with an attorney. It is the job of both the defense attorney and the insurance adjuster to attempt to reduce the amount of money paid to the injured party. Strategies to do this include attacking the victim’s credibility and attempting to minimize the claims of harm alleged by the plaintiff.
Social media can sometimes help the defense in this regard. Below, we’ll give some examples.
- Photographs: Photographs and activities may contradict your claims of physical injury. Let’s say you have a leg injury that hurts every day. You hiked in the past, but now it’s a struggle to do so. With great pain, you walk half a mile in the mountains, take a photo beside a beautiful lake and post it on social media. You look happy. This photo can be introduced by the defense to show you have overcome your injuries and still do the things you love. If the photo doesn’t display your pain and limitations, it can be a powerful image to use against you.
- Language in Posts: You may say something contradictory without intending to do so. Have you ever noticed that every time a friend tells a story or a joke, it changes a little bit? There’s no intention to lie, but we don’t have perfect memories. Lawyers know the more times someone talks about an issue, the more chance there is to have conflict between the versions. Pointing out these inconsistencies can make a witness look bad. Writing about the case on social media just increases the chances of unintentional inconsistencies.
- Comments on Posts: Anyone who has spent much time on social media knows that people can post some crazy responses. If you post about an accident, others may respond with harmful information that isn’t even accurate. Why take the chance?
- Checking In: It can be fun to mention places you are visiting. But like the photograph we mentioned before, even if you’re struggling with your injuries, these check-ins can be portrayed as evidence that your life is great and you’re having nothing but fun.
Aren’t My Posts Private?
First, we know that people have many ways of gaining access to another person’s posts. But even if that doesn’t happen, social media posts can often be obtained in litigation through discovery and evidentiary procedures available to lawyers. It’s best to count on the opposing party getting access to your social media posts.
Avoiding the Temptation
According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 69 percent of adults say they use Facebook. Of those who do, 74 percent make daily visits to the site and half visit several times a day. Younger adults tend to prefer Instagram and Snapchat, and many other users enjoy sites such as Twitter and Pinterest. So, we understand there is a strong attraction to social media for many people.
But during litigation, it pays to avoid social media to the greatest extent possible. This isn’t just true for personal injury cases, but for domestic and other types of litigation, as well.
Call with Questions
If you have suffered a personal injury due to the negligence of another, the experienced Oregon lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are here to answer your questions. We take pride in holding negligent actors responsible for their actions so that all of Oregon society will be protected.