In the age of social media, where users post photos of everything from children’s dance recitals to morning breakfast sausages, accident victims frequently use these online forums to share photos and news about their collision. Lawyers for insurance companies are increasingly asking Plaintiffs to produce this content in personal injury litigation. In this post, we explain four ways social media can be detrimental to personal injury claims.
1. “At Least Nobody Was Hurt”
In the moments after a collision, it is perfectly natural to do a quick assessment of everyone’s condition. While some injuries may be readily identifiable, many others can take time to manifest, including soft tissue damage, non-displaced fractures, and psychological symptoms. Attention can quickly shift to assessing and photographing the property damage, but when those images are posted online, they almost inevitably lead to discussions regarding the nature and magnitude of injuries. These statements can be problematic, particularly if the injuries later turn out to be more serious than originally thought.
2. A Private Investigator That Never Sleeps
Before social media, insurance companies would turn to private investigators to conduct surveillance on claimants, particularly if the adjuster had doubts about the extent of someone’s injuries or disabilities. That could involve many costly hours of an investigator’s time, with no guarantee the surveillance would even be fruitful. Today’s social media users can virtually eliminate the defence’s cost and risk of private surveillance, through posting content about their recreational activities, vacations, household projects or even workouts.
3. Putting Forward Our Best Selves
Social media users tend to carefully curate what they choose to post online, in order to put forward an idealized image to their followers. However, there is often a disconnect between a user’s online image, and their real life. This can present a significant problem for injured plaintiffs, if their online statements and images are inconsistent with the complaints they make in the context of litigation.
4. Inconsistent Memories
Personal injury claims often take a number years to resolve. For those that end up in litigation, quite a bit of time can pass between the accident and those moments when a claimant has to answer questions under oath, either at Questionings or Trial. It can be very challenging to remember specific details about the length of a recovery, or when particular activities were resumed. Claimants whose memories are inconsistent with evidence posted on their social media profile can hurt their credibility as a witness.