Why Facebook is popping up in more personal injury cases

Injuries | April 11, 2018

On behalf of David Letkemann

A look at recent British Columbia personal injury cases that involved evidence from social media.

For most people, social media is a fun and innocent way of keeping up with friends and family members. For those involved in a car accident, however, social media could play a much more serious role in their personal injury cases. According to the National Post, recent trial cases in British Columbia have shone a light on the interesting and surprising ways social media and personal injury law overlap. Posts from Facebook and other social media profiles have increasingly been introduced by defence lawyers in order to undermine the credibility of accident victims’ claims.

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“Rainbows and butterflies”

The reason social media posts are being introduced as evidence in a growing number of personal injury cases is simple. If an accident victim claims that he or she has suffered physically or mentally as a result of an accident, then social media posts that potentially contradict those claims could be relevant in a case. A claimant, for example, who says he cannot walk after his accident and then posts pictures of himself dancing will probably have a very difficult case.

The problem with social media, however, is that, in the words of one lawyer, it only shows “rainbows and butterflies.” As Global News reports, a claimant may be suffering considerable mental or physical pain, yet he or she will still want to portray him or herself as happy and successful to friends and family. As a result, social media tends to make that claimant’s life look much more positive than may actually be the case.

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British Columbia cases

Courts are still grappling with how to deal with social media evidence. Two recent British Columbia cases highlight just how difficult it is for judges to weigh how relevant social media evidence is. Last year, for example, a B.C. judge largely rejected a woman’s claims that she was suffering from depression and PTSD after the defence pointed to her Facebook profile, which showed her engaged in a number of social events.

However, in 2014 another B.C. judge largely dismissed the relevancy of social media evidence in a personal injury case. The defence claimed that Facebook photos showing the plaintiff on trips and engaging in activities suggested that her injuries had been exaggerated. The judge, however, noted that “a snapshot does not show anything but a moment in time” and largely rejected the Facebook evidence while awarding the woman $500,000 in damages and lost income.

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Personal injury law

What the above cases show is that it is still difficult to predict what role social media will play in a particular personal injury case. Because of this unpredictability, it is important for anybody who has been involved in a car accident to contact a personal injury lawyer immediately. An experienced lawyer can assist accident victims with any potential claims, including how to handle social media concerns.

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