Canadians love to connect on social media to the point where posting about what we’re doing each day has become as common as chatting with a friend.
James Ross is a personal injury lawyer at Orendorff and Associates in Sudbury, and he has some advice for individuals who don’t think twice about what they post on social media. Ross said, “You should know that if you do file a personal injury lawsuit, your social media activity is going to come up and that may be what the jury ends up determining who you are.”
Social media platforms are a potentially powerful reservoir of evidence, and they can have a huge impact on a personal injury case. Posting photos while hiking, bragging about doing a 10km run, or even dancing up a storm on TikTok can be seen as harmless activities, until they’re produced as relevant evidence at a personal injury trial.
Many of us only show positive things on social media. But there could be consequences to only revealing your best side in a personal injury case.
If a plaintiff claims they suffered debilitating injuries, but their Facebook and Instagram pages show something else, it may damage their credibility with the jury. Ross said, “It makes a huge difference in the case because at the root of all personal injury cases is credibility. A jury wants to know that what they’re being told is the truth.”
Ross recounts a case in Ontario a few years ago involving woman who was injured when a car drove over her foot. She was seeking $3 million in damages. She claimed her professional ballroom dancing career was ruined because she could no longer wear high heels. But the plaintiff’s credibility was ruined when the defence found photos online showing her dancing in high heels.
If there’s a lesson to be learned; never assume that anything you share publicly or privately is fully confidential. Ross said, “You have to assume that everyone is going to see it, and everyone is going to read it. If it’s not something you would say to your mother, then don’t post it.”
Ross tells his clients to be honest and truthful. He said, “Don’t magnify your injuries, but also keep in mind that everything you’ve said online might come up in your case. The key point to remember is, everything can be managed, except a lie.”
Ross would rather his clients be 100 percent truthful and then he can ask for the context. He said, “Although pictures are worth a thousand words, they often don’t tell the whole story.”
Ross represented a young woman who was injured and then left with a noticeable scar on her face. The plaintiff said she was self-conscious about the scar. Defence counsel asked how she could be self-conscious when she was posting photos of herself on Instagram. Ross then pointed out for the jury that the photos were taken in such a way that you couldn’t see the scar. So, the Instagram photos which were initially used by the defence ended up supporting the plaintiff.
Depending on the situation, online photos can either help or hurt the case. The evidence can be used to bolster the plaintiff’s position or blunt the narrative put forward by the defence. In personal injury cases, understanding context is critically important.
Anything relevant must be produced in a court of law. Everything you share on social media can become part of the public record, whether you want it to or not.
If you would like to contact James Ross, call (705) 673-1299 or visit: www.sudburypersonalinjurylawyers.ca