Social Media Effects in Personal Injury Litigation

Here is the best free advice you’ll get today: if you get injured at some point and believe someone else may be at fault for your injury, STOP POSTING ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

Why? Despite what you may think, your social media posts are not private even if you have your privacy settings maxed out. Your posts can still be subject to disclosure even if you only have one friend and no one but that one friend can see the posts. If you’re putting something out to the Internet, you should never assume it’s safe from disclosure.

There is another common misconception out there about social media: the belief that only dishonest people need to go silent on social media after an injury. People think that only people who have something to hide need to shut down their social media accounts to avoid “slipping up” and revealing the truth.

The truth is, the dangers of social media apply to the truthful even more than they apply to those who are dishonest. At least dishonest people know they’re lying and take special care to avoid contradicting their story on social media. Truthful people who have nothing to hide are far more at risk of ruining their case with their social media accounts because they think there is nothing that can hurt them. In reality, these honest people have no idea how easily a simple Facebook post can be twisted around by defense counsel to try and contradict their testimony.

Here’s an example from a real case. We had a woman who had suffered permanent disability in her shoulder due to medical malpractice she suffered at the hands of a hack pop-up shop “medical spa” here in Las Vegas. The woman was relatively young, active, and honest. She could no longer raise her shoulder above her head without substantial pain because of the malpractice and even putting on her clothes in the morning was uncomfortable. She needed long-term rehabilitation and maybe even surgery to correct the damage done to her nerves and tissue.

It just so happens that this same young, active woman had a passion for yoga. It was her way of staying in shape and feeling at peace. So one day she went with her friends to the beach and, despite her shoulder problems, got down into a yoga position on the beach to take a picture with the sunset behind her. She fought through the pain to try and record that fun moment with her friends. To her, the sacrifice of that irritation in her shoulder was worth getting a lasting memory of her posing on a beautiful beach with her friends.

You can guess what happened from here. She got tagged in the picture, and during her deposition the opposing attorney pulled out the picture and asked her how she could possibly do this yoga pose if her shoulder was in such pain. My client did her best to explain to the very skilled attorney why she did the pose and why it was worth the pain, but that only led to a further spiraling downward of her case. Despite our objections and rehabilitation attempts, the damage had been done. We knew that there was a chance the jury would look at our client with distrust at trial, and it impacted the final value of our client’s case.

There’s nothing positive social media can do for your case. This is based on common sense, but also the rules of evidence. Your lawyer won’t be able to introduce your post saying, “Man, my shoulder is killing me today!” because that’s hearsay and not allowed to be admitted. On the flip side, everything you say on social media CAN be introduced by your opponent because the admission of an opponent is NOT hearsay. Social media is a trap for the unwary.

Hopefully after reading this blog, though, you won’t be “unwary.”