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Social Media and the Danger it Poses to Personal Injury Cases

Injury victims seeking damages for pain and suffering should be mindful of what they put on social media. One plaintiff learned the hard way, losing almost $100,000 from her jury award due to posts via social media.

In June of 2011, Omeisha Daniels was a passenger in her friend’s 2004 Ford Taurus. A work van, driven by an employee of American Refrigeration Service, collided with their the Taurus as they drove along. An ambulance took Daniels to a hospital, where she was treated for a concussion, a six- to eight-inch laceration, and a broken arm. Plates and screws were used to repair the arm.

Daniels’ claim against the work van’s company alleged that American Refrigeration Service was negligent in hiring and entrusting their employee to drive. The claim cited that the employee received five speeding tickets between 2005 and 2006, along with DUIs in 1988 and 1998.

The jury apportioned 60% of the fault to the defendants and 40% to the driver of Daniels’ vehicle. The plaintiff sought damages between $1.1 and $1.3 million including damages for medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering.

Daniels’ attorneys told her to be careful as to what she disseminated on the internet. At trial, Defense attorney J. Robb Cruser delivered a series of social media posts showing Daniels using her arm and tweets with quotes to songs such as, “It’s my birthday and I’ll get drunk and I want to.” The messages further discussed an “epic weekend” in New Orleans and displayed images of Daniels holding a handbag. According to her attorney, the plaintiff’s posts gave an impression that Daniels wasn’t really injured.

Daniels’ carefree messages about traveling and partying cut her award from $237,000 returned by the jury to $142,000. The award covered Daniels’ $58,000 in medical bills.

I agree that plaintiffs must be wary of their postings on social media. Social media is a record of our lives. People tend to believe much of what people put out there. For many, it’s merely documentation through photographs, words and content. Plaintiffs who are actually injured should not be participating in activities like those described, let alone documenting them via social media.

However, I’m disturbed by the double standard that the inclusion of these posts creates. If a car accident or motorcycle crash victim wanted to bring in a series of Facebook or twitter posts about how depressed they were during their recovery, then the defense bar would be up in arms. They would claim that the posts are not only misleading, lacking of authenticity and relevance, but also self-serving hearsay.

It’s this double standard that should be seriously scrutinized by law and policy-makers. As a plaintiff you should never try to hide your activities. Be aware that any activities that you do participate in, which contradict your claims will likely come out in trial.

If you have been injured as a result of the negligence exhibited by an individual or corporation, call the injury law attorneys at the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for a free consultation and case evaluation at: (727) 451-6900.


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