We often look to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as outlets for self-expression, sharing both the good and the bad. Using social media can help us to feel better in hard times, by maintaining social connections and having others validate our thoughts and feelings.
However, as we all know, using social media does have inherent risks. What you believe you are sharing with a few friends may, in fact, have a much larger audience. Many a user has come to regret something they posted on Twitter or Facebook, perhaps even in the distant past.
These risks are even more pronounced for personal injury plaintiffs. When you are engaged in a lawsuit you will be the subject of Google searches by the defence. Your online presence will be carefully reviewed, and anything you post, share or like could end up as evidence before a judge and a jury.
Social Media as Evidence In a Lawsuit
When you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, the other party will be doing everything in its power to diminish or negate your claims of harm. This means collecting all relevant evidence, including social media.
If you use sites like Facebook and Twitter, you should expect that the defence will be reviewing that content and looking for opportunities to undermine your claim. Pictures and videos can be very persuasive to a judge and/or jury, even when they are taken out of context.
While maintaining strong privacy settings on sites like Facebook is a good idea – and definitely recommended – you should not assume that anything you post is totally secure. This includes private messages. Even if they cannot access it directly, the defence may make an application to the Court to access your private social media content. If the Court agrees that the content is likely relevant to your case, they may grant the request.
As an example, if someone is claiming that they have suffered a debilitating back injury but posts pictures of themselves at the gym, the defence will almost certainly use that to attack the plaintiff’s credibility. Perhaps they only went to the gym to support a friend, or to make a social call – but there is no guarantee a jury will believe that.
Similarly, your social media can be used in an attempt to discredit your claim of psychological injury and/or emotional distress. A simple image of you smiling from ear to ear could be admitted into evidence to show that you “don’t look emotionally distraught.” It may not matter that the smile was fleeting, or not genuine – a jury may well see it otherwise.
Do Not Delete Existing Evidence
As a plaintiff you have a duty to preserve all relevant evidence, including social media. So don’t hit the delete button! If you do the defence could raise this before the Court, with potentially serious consequences for your case.
What you should do is discuss with your lawyer in detail all of your social media activities, including which sites you use, and your usernames/handles. If we know what is there, we can do our best to insulate your case from harm. This is greatly preferable to being surprised with unhelpful content at discovery or trial.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that anything you do online may ultimately be used against you in your personal injury lawsuit.
Before posting anything, ask yourself if you are comfortable with it being seen publicly. Do not share anything that you wouldn’t want to hand over to the defense. Additionally, be cautious of messages or invitations to connect from those whom you do not know.
At the outset of your case, your lawyer will recommend that you maximize your privacy settings and that you limit your use of social media as much as possible, for the duration of your lawsuit. Your online activity will be closely scrutinized and is far more likely to hurt your case than to help it.
Remember – the Internet is forever!
Cariati Law Can Help
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of someone else, you should not have to pay the price. At Cariati Law, our experienced personal injury lawyers will handle your case for free – you pay nothing until we do. Contact one of our Toronto Personal Injury Lawyers at 905-629-8040 today!