In 2003, a New York woman working a desk job at the Stony Brook University Medical Center suffered a serious back injury after her chair collapsed underneath her. She filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the chair, Steelcase. The woman claimed that the defective chair had impacted her enjoyment of life and rendered her mostly unable to leave home.
To build their argument against the woman filing the suit, Steelcase’s legal team turned to her Myspace account for ammunition. They found a picture of her smiling outside her home, along with posts with smiling emoticons, which the attorneys claimed indicated that the woman was happy. The attorneys also uncovered photographs posted on her daughter’s Facebook accounts indicating that the woman had traveled to Florida. This case, featured in articles from Reuters to Slate, is one of several examples of how social media is increasingly impacting litigation in the United States.
In 2007, a racecar driver suffered injuries in a crash at the Hummingbird Speedway and filed a lawsuit against the racetrack claiming that his injuries impeded his enjoyment of life. The speedway’s attorney found posts on the driver’s Facebook page indicating he attended Daytona 500 and went on a fishing trip in Florida.
It might be puzzling to consider the fact that seemingly casual posts on social media can have a major impact on the outcome of a personal injury case. After all, social media is a place where most people tend to post things that cast them in a positive light. It’s hard to imagine someone posting a selfie in which they are grimacing in pain, even if they live with an injury that causes constant pain and suffering.
People try to share the good moments with their friends when they post things on social media. They congratulate family members when they are happy for them. They take pictures of a pleasant moment in their lives and share it others. Yet, even these innocent posts can be used against someone when they are involved in a lawsuit.
Posts reflecting happiness or enjoyment of life could be harmful to your personal injury case, but that doesn’t mean that you should take the opposite route, either. If someone suffers a serious injury and takes to social media to vent or display how badly they’ve been hurt, they might also unwittingly supply the other side with evidence that will be used against them.
For example, let’s say a man suffers a broken hip after falling at a grocery store and repeatedly launches Facebook rants about the slick floor that caused their injury. If he files a lawsuit against the grocery store, the attorneys will look at his account and ask questions: “Does this man have a history of writing incendiary things about businesses he frequents?” Or, “How much pain can someone be in if they’re able to write twenty 300-word posts about how negligent this grocery store is?”
No matter what you say on social media when filing an injury claim, the opposing attorneys will look for some way to use it against you. Maybe they’ll be successful and maybe they won’t, but either way, you don’t want to give them that opportunity.
If You’re Involved in a Lawsuit, Stay Off Social Media
The lesson here is that no matter how passionate you feel about your injury, or no matter how brave a face you’d like to portray to people in your feed, your interests are best served by saying nothing at all. Even innocent posts or emoticons can be interpreted in many ways, and the attorneys representing the other side will take anything you give them to help win their case.
If you’ve ever seen a news report or a press conference where someone lets their attorney speak for them or if you’ve watched a movie where someone pleads the fifth, then you’re already familiar with the concept of self-incrimination. Staying silent during a personal injury case is also important because posting something on social media is almost the equivalent of making a public statement. In today’s digital age, we simply have more ways to hurt our case by speaking out. The most well-meaning, innocuous post can have major ramifications on any pending litigation.
If you’ve been injured and are considering filing a personal injury claim, do yourself a favor and stay away from social media. It’s not easy for someone people to abstain from posting smiley faces on a friend’s Facebook post or to make a witty joke on Twitter, but it’s not worth putting your claim in jeopardy.
Perhaps it’s unfair that someone could have their social media presence used against them in a claim, but it is a reality of our current legal system. A key part of any attorney’s job is to look for every advantage possible for their client. A personal injury claim can be hotly contested; and you can be sure that if you post anything that the other side’s attorney can use to hurt your claim, they will take advantage of it.
Set a rule for yourself to refrain from posting anything online while you’re involved in a lawsuit. Ask your friends and loved ones to avoid posting any pictures or comments of you, too. While you might not post something directly, you might be tagged in a picture that could be used against you in your case. Set your accounts to private, and don’t let anyone follow you if you don’t know who they are.
A serious injury can be taxing on many levels. They’re painful and debilitating, and they restrict a person’s ability to enjoy their life. It’s unfortunate that our online presence is also affected by our injuries, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
To learn more about filing a personal injury claim or to discuss your case with an attorney, contact the legal team at Kaplan Lawyers PC to learn more. We have helped thousands of clients get the compensation they deserve.
Contact Kaplan Lawyers PC by filling out our online form or calling us at any of our office locations:
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Attorney Jared S. Kaplan
Attorney Jared S. Kaplan has focused his career on advancing his legal knowledge though the day to day practice of law. Jared is a partner in the law firm of Kaplan Lawyers PC in Syosset, New York and has been a practicing attorney for nearly 20 years. His career started in litigation, so Jared is aware of the pitfalls in litigation and uses that knowledge in the representation of his clients in complex matters. [ Attorney Bio ]