The increasing reliance on technology and use of social media in today's society creates a new frontier of discovery and evidence in personal injury lawsuits. The ability to post and communicate about one's daily activities provides a platform for defendants to assess the veracity of a plaintiff's claims. The question for a court is ultimately to what extent defendants should be allowed to delve into a plaintiff's social media activity in an effort to obtain relevant evidence.
It is a well known principle in both civil litigation and criminal law that memories fade causing witness testimonies to be distorted and confused. While an eyewitness may have every intention of being honest, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to recall events with crystal-clear recollection. Accordingly, it is very important to gather physical evidence, such as surveillance footage and photographs, in order to prove a case and be successful in court.
On May 13, 2015, a Manhattan police officer shot David Baril, a hammer-wielding man that was attempting to attack a fellow officer. As reported by the New York Times, two witnesses came forward with contradicting statements as to the events that took place. One witness, Anthony O'Grady, told reporters that a man was fleeing from the police when he was shot, and another witness, Sunny Khalsa, reported that the man handcuffed at the time the police shot him.
However, the surveillance footage proved both Mr. O'Grady and Ms. Khalsa wrong. Mr. Baril was neither handcuffed nor fleeing at the time he was shot; he was attempting to attack a police officer by swinging a hammer when he was shot by a fellow officer.
To no ones surprise, the impact of social media has reached an all time peak in our current generation. Publicizing your personal life can make you feel connected to a larger community, but such easy, casual connection in an electronic environment can also have its downside. This is especially true in the conduct of personal injury litigation. What may seem an innocuous Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter post may erode the strength of your case and the claims for pain and suffering.
In personal injury actions, the defense have a right to compel the plaintiff to see a doctor of their choosing for an "Independent Medical Examination" (IMEs). While these examinations are so-called "independent," it is no hidden secret that they are not "independent" at all. Rather, the doctor is hired by the defendant for the exclusive purpose to draft a report and testify at trial on behalf of the defense.
The Law Office of Louis Grandelli recently settled a lawsuit for $650,000.00 involving a client who was seriously injured in a car accident, but who also had a history of criminal convictions which presented difficult issues. The incident involved an intersection accident in Staten Island, New York, and our client alleged that the defendant negligently ran the stop sign "T-boning" his vehicle. As a result, the plaintiff sustained serious spinal injuries requiring surgery.
It is often the case that a person who is injured in an accident is hesitant to contact a lawyer, even if the accident is entirely the fault of another party. However, what some fail to consider is that as the days and weeks go by, evidence that may be necessary to prove their case may be lost or destroyed. In view of this, it is particularly important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible so they can begin an investigation and act to preserve any evidence.
It's already become well known that what you post online may have repercussions beyond what you may expect and in personal injury litigation the truth of that is being seen more and more. Indeed, many clients are surprised to learn the variety of ways their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts, pictures, and messages can become part of their personal injury litigation.