Can Social Media Have An Impact On Your Personal Injury Claim?

Increasingly, social media is becoming more ingrained and playing a bigger role in our lives. From travel and shopping to healthcare, relationships and even education, social media is impacting decisions that millennials take daily. Also, some colleges do look at college applicants’ social media posts and just days ago, Harvard rescinded admissions offers to 10 students for offensive memes they posted in a private Facebook group.

Interestingly, social media use also brings legal consequences. Stalking, harassment, cyber bullying, even posting evidence of committing crimes online have landed people in court.

However, what you may not realize is that the things you say and do on social media can also have an impact on your ongoing personal injury case. Let’s take a closer look at how this is so.

Defense lawyers may use your posts to refute your claims

The entire point of a personal injury lawsuit is to recover damages because your life has been negatively impacted by an injury caused by someone else. The defense attorney’s job is to find evidence that proves that your life has not been negatively impacted, or that you are exaggerating your injuries in some way.

Defense lawyers collect evidence in many ways. They may interview your employer, friends, and neighbors. They may even hire a private investigator to watch you. Their goal is to capture behavior that contradicts your claims and proves that you aren’t suffering as you claimed.

Unfortunately, many plaintiffs make things very easy for the defense, simply by posting things on social media that undermine their claims. For example, a simple post about mowing the lawn could be used as evidence to refute a personal injury claim about a back injury.

“Personal injury cases don’t only involve physical injuries or disabilities,” says Jonathan Marshall, CEO of New Jersey DUI Lawyer. “These cases can also include claims of emotional duress, trauma, and other impacts to mental health and wellbeing. A plaintiff can collect damages if they prove that their quality of life and ability to function has been diminished. Social media posts can also be used against plaintiffs if they seem to contradict claims of mental or emotional trauma. This is especially problematic, because many people only share the positive on social media. This can give the impression to judges and juries alike that the plaintiff really isn’t suffering.”

In one case, a student brought a lawsuit against her teacher, school district and other school officials alleging that she was traumatized because the defendants had failed to protect her when she was pursued and sexually assaulted by her teacher, Danny Cuesta. Defense attorneys used her social media post, which featured her drinking, smiling, and socializing with friends, as evidence to refute her claims.

While this may seem unfair, the truth is it’s a tactic that defense lawyers regularly use.

Negative posts about the defendant can backfire

“If you’ve been injured as a result of the careless or even criminal behavior of an individual, business, or other organization, you may be rightfully angry,” says John Sloan, attorney at Sloan Firm. “However, venting that anger on social media can be a bad idea. People are very quick to define others as ‘sue happy’ or out to make a quick buck by exaggerating claims just to get settlement money, so defendants are often eager to find ways to exploit these attitudes and make plaintiffs seem as if they are simply out to get money.”

The infamous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit is strong evidence of this. They may even look for ways to claim that the basis for the suit against them is sour grapes or bad blood rather than any actual injury.

By posting negatively about the defendant on social media, you can play right into that. Angry posts can be used to paint you as being bitter, unhinged, or simply out to paint the defendant in a negative light.