Getting injured is an agonizing experience for anyone. It is quite natural that you want to let your friends and family members know that you’re safe through social media. But if you’re filing a personal injury lawsuit, I will request you not to do so. Why, you ask?
Unfortunately, any public information can be used for or against you in a legal proceeding. In today’s digital age, anything you post online can be construed as public information, even if you post it securely on your own page.
Social media posts can be presented as evidence not just in the US but in other countries as well. For example, there are provisions in the Federal and Provincial statutes of Canada to accept social media evidence in a court of law. The Alberta Evidence Act states that any electronic record can be presented as evidence, and the party presenting the evidence takes the burden of authenticating it.
Any Calagry or Edmonton personal injury lawyer can tell you that under rule 5.13 of the Alberta Rules of Court, evidence obtained from third parties can also be admitted, including any data obtained from deactivated social media profiles. For example, if the server is located outside Canada, the court will ask a foreign court to produce the documents.
That’s why it’s crucial to be informed about how an innocent social media post can wreak havoc on your personal injury lawsuit. Let’s discuss some vital information about social media posts after filing a personal injury lawsuit that you should be aware of.
They May Contradict Your Statement
Defending lawyers and insurance companies always look for inconsistencies in information that they can use to weaken the case. Some can be so absurd that you would think they have a weak connection to the case. Moustarah & Company, an Edmonton-based personal injury law firm, states on its website that it is best not to discuss any details of your injury on social media. They can be misinterpreted and used against you in a personal injury lawsuit.
Remember, opposing lawyers and insurance companies want to plant the seed of doubt in the mind of the jury and the judge so that anything you’ve said so far starts to look dubious. If they can find anything of that sort in your social media posts, your compensation may suffer.
The opposing counsel and insurance companies would always conduct surveillance on you to gather evidence that they can use against your case. That includes scrutinizing your social media posts and communication.
The recently concluded case of Gwyneth Paltrow v Terry Sanderson is a perfect example. The latter filed a lawsuit against Paltrow in 2016, claiming that the actress slammed into him while skiing on the slopes of the Deer Valley Resort.
The plaintiff stated that he had suffered lifelong brain damage due to the accident and sought $300,000 in damages. The case went in favor of Paltrow when her attorney presented the plaintiff’s social media posts from vacations in Europe, South America, and Morocco after the accident as evidence. These posts clearly showed that Sanderson was quite active, which went against Sanderson’s claims of brain damage.
You may think social media posts can also be used as proof to support your case. For example, you sustained an injury, and one of your friends recorded the mishap. Now you may think posting the video on social media can help you present damning evidence that cannot be tampered with or destroyed.
I’m not saying it cannot help at all. But you should know that if the lawyers, jury, or judges find anything in that video that contradicts one of your statements, it can raise doubts about the credibility of your lawsuit. If anyone else posts anything related to your accident, that can also be scrutinized to find contradictions that can weaken your case.
You may think that you can adjust your privacy settings to screen your social media posts from prying eyes. Unfortunately, everything that you post on the Internet can be found one way or another. The opposing lawyers or insurance companies will employ multiple strategies to uncover any information that you may try to hide from the public eye. They can befriend one of your social media acquaintances or use AI-powered software to view your post.
Sympathy From Others May Not Help
A post to let your near and dear ones know you’re safe often generates a lot of comments, mostly sympathetic. Unfortunately, these sympathetic gestures can also be used against you by the defending lawyers and insurance companies. They might find a comment that points out something contradictory to your statements and use that in a court of law, even if it was meant as a joke.
You must remember that one cannot distinguish emotional or verbal cues from these comments, and anything written by your friends or family members can be used to lead the case away from being in your favor.
For example, someone might comment on your post related to your injury, saying, “Thank god you’re perfectly fine,” to convey their sympathy. The lawyers can twist this into convincing the jury and judges that you may be faking your condition and the incident may not be as severe as you’ve implied.
Don’t Delete Any Posts Either
If you are involved in a personal injury or any other lawsuit, your social media posts are subject to the same rules of evidence as any other type of evidence. Therefore, you should never try to delete any social media posts once the lawsuit process begins. If you do so, it can have serious consequences in certain situations.
Deleting social media posts might be considered negative interference if a judge or jury member feels you’ve destroyed or spoiled relevant evidence. At the most, you can make changes to your privacy settings. But as I mentioned before, it won’t help much either. It applies to messages on social media or other digital platforms like WhatsApp too. Even if you delete anything permanently, it can still be recovered using digital forensics methods and presented in a court of law as evidence.
Some people might question whether it is legal to present personal messages from social media as evidence. However, Judge Michael Correiro, cohost of “Hot Bench,” explained in a video that the law that prohibits obtaining illegal evidence applies to law enforcement officials only, not civilians. So, if you have exchanged messages with anyone privately that can incriminate you, those can be presented as evidence in most courts of law without any problem.
Social media has become part and parcel of our everyday life. But they can become a curse for your personal injury lawsuit if a related post is used as evidence against you. That’s why it’s best not to put up anything even distantly related to your accident or injury on social media.
The opposing counsel or insurance companies can present those posts as evidence against you, adversely affecting your compensation. The best course of action is to discuss your social media activities with your attorney and understand what you can or can’t post.