Social Media and Lawsuits – What Affects Your Case
Social media and lawsuits are a logical outflow in today’s interconnected world since social media platforms have become an integral part of our daily lives. From sharing personal experiences to posting updates on various events, people often turn to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X (Twitter), and others to connect with friends and family.
However, the ubiquity of social media introduces a new dynamic in the legal landscape, particularly in the realm of personal injury or other civil lawsuits. In this post, we examine social media and lawsuits and explore some ways this new technology can affect personal injury and other civil cases.
What is Social Media
Social media is digital technology that allows the sharing of ideas and information, including text and visuals, through virtual networks and communities. Essentially, social media platforms provide a forum where people can communicate freely.
When these communities began at the end of the 20th century, they were nowhere near as large and influential. Since the launch of Facebook in the mid 2000’s, social media platforms were the most visited websites internationally and according to the Pew Research Center, well over half the US population is on one form of social media or another.
Over time, social media has evolved from direct electronic information exchange, to virtual gathering place or community, to retail platforms for companies to sell their products and services. Their popularity offers both personal and commercial opportunities to individuals and businesses. Yet, there are some downsides to this widespread exchange of information.
Lawsuits and the Use of Evidence
Evidence is anything that can show the likelihood of the truth of something asserted. Simply put, anything that can be used to prove something is evidence. Lawyers use evidence to prove a particular fact or position for their clients. Thus, evidence is the building blocks of a lawsuit.
What Can Be Used as Evidence?
There are many types of evidence. Type of admissible evidence include:
- Direct evidence
- Circumstantial evidence
- Statistical evidence
- Real evidence
- Demonstrative evidence
- Documentary evidence
- Impression evidence
- Testimonial evidence
- Character evidence
- Habit evidence
- Hearsay evidence exceptions
- Forensic evidence
- Trace evidence
- Expert witness evidence
- Digital evidence
What Cannot be Used as Evidence?
Forms of evidence that are generally inadmissible include hearsay, prejudicial, improperly obtained or irrelevant items.
What Evidence Does in Practice
Evidence is used to support a particular position during legal proceedings. The parties either use evidence to prove or disprove something. In civil cases, plaintiffs have the burden of proof. Thus, they need to show enough evidence to prove to the fact finder (judge or jury) that their side of the story is true. If they fail to do so, they lose the case.
Social Media as Evidence of Liability
The interaction between social media and lawsuits involves the use of social media information as evidence. Individuals involved in accidents sometimes share details about their lives, activities, and well-being on these platforms. Attorneys, insurance companies, and opposing parties use this information to strengthen or undermine a case.
Social Media Example 1
Consider a plaintiff who posted in the past about their involvement in a prior accident. These pictures are available to defense attorneys as part of the discovery process. They most likely would use these photos to question the causal relationship between plaintiff’s injuries and the accident in question. If, as part of discovery, plaintiff stated there were no prior accidents, plaintiff’s credibility will also be called into question.
Social Media and Lawsuits Example 2
Consider a motor vehicle accident defendant would regularly posts videos of himself bobbing and weaving through traffic at a high rate of speed. These posts are also discoverable and could be used to establish a pattern of reckless behavior.
Social Media and Lawsuits – Evidence of Damages
Social media can also influence the assessment of damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Plaintiffs seeking compensation for physical and emotional distress may find their claims challenged based on the information available on social media.
Social Media and Damages Example 1
Consider a plaintiff claiming emotional distress and trauma after a car accident posts pictures or updates showing them enjoying social events without signs of distress. The defense could argue that these activities contradict the alleged emotional suffering. While these pictures may not be enough by themselves, it’s possible that with other evidence, a fact finder can be swayed.
Social Media and Lawsuit Damages Example 2
Consider a plaintiff claiming severe and permanent physical injuries who posts pictures of themselves engaging in physically demanding activities after the accident. Defense lawyers will use these posts to question the severity of any alleged injuries, their permanency, and their impact upon the plaintiff’s quality of life.
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Preservation of Evidence
Attorneys often advise their clients to be cautious about their social media activity during ongoing legal proceedings. As stated above, posts, comments, or even private messages can be used as evidence. Clients should also be aware that deleting social media while involved in a lawsuit can also have consequences.
If, during litigation, a plaintiff deletes social media content relevant to the case, such as posts about the incident or related injuries, this could be considered spoliation. Spoliation is the deliberate, accidental or negligent destruction of relevant evidence. Not only will plaintiffs face damage to their credibility if posts are deleted. Some can even be ordered to pay fines if social media posts are destroyed during a lawsuit.
Social Media and Lawsuits Takeaways
While social media provides a platform for individuals to express themselves and connect with others, it also presents challenges in the context of personal injury lawsuits. Both plaintiffs and defendants should exercise caution and be mindful of the potential impact their social media can affect their lawsuits. Attorneys might want to advise clients on the prudent use of social media during lawsuits to avoid compromising the strength of their case. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the legal system must adapt to effectively navigate the complexities introduced by social media.
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IMPORTANT: This and all articles contained on the Fair Rate Funding lawsuit loan blog are intended for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Consult with a lawyer for any legal issues you may be experiencing.