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 the click of a button, we now have the ability to share our personal information, daily activities, life experiences, relationships, and ongoing events on a global database. What we choose to display on the internet can be a pernicious factor when it comes to certain career choices, school administrations, and employment. One post can decrease a number of opportunities, but what many individuals do not realize is how it may also be used against you in the court of law.
In 2006, a Long Island High School Spanish teacher pled guilty to third-degree rape, as well as endangering the welfare of a minor. The defendant admitted to luring a 15-year-old sophomore girl into private school offices, and motels for sexual intercourse. In order to gain access into the victims home the defendant even posed as her “personal tutor”.
The defendant was eventually sentenced to 15 months in jail. Proceeding the sentence, the victim the defendant, school officials, and the school district, seeking damages for claims such as “nightmares and sleep deprivation,” “emotional distress,” “alienation of affections “and “loss of enjoyment of life.”
In an attempt to defend the civil case, the attorneys for the school district investigated the plaintiff-victim and her background in order to discredit her testimony and her claims of mental anguish and physical injuries. In furtherance of this investigation, the attorneys for the school district accessed and review the plaintiff-victim’s Facebook page. Although the plaintiff-victim’s Facebook account was made private, the school district was able to retrieve a number of her pictures that contradicted her statements and claims. The pictures revealed the plaintiff-victim participating in activities such as rock climbing, quality time with her boyfriend, out drinking with her friends, working at a veterinary hospital etc.
The plaintiff-victim’s mirthful Facebook activity was damaging to her claims of injury and mental anguish. Indeed, she had claimed a loss of enjoyment of life as an injury resulting from the occurrence. The legal definition of “Loss of enjoyment of life” refers to damages claimed on detrimental alterations of a person’s life/ lifestyle, or a person’s inability to participate in the activities or pleasures of life that were formerly enjoyed. The school district attempted to show that regardless of the incident, that the plaintiff-victim was leading a happy, social, active life.
If you have a personal injury case or have been involved in an accident and are contemplating pursuing legal action, it is very important consider how each comment or photo you publish via Social Media may be perceived. Your posts may be fair game for discovery and can be used against you by the defendants in your case.