In this day and age, it seems as if everybody has some form of social media account. With the widespread use of popular networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, people have made sharing some parts of their everyday life a norm. According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, approximately 70% of Americans - and nearly 86% of 18 to 29-year-olds - utilize social media in some form. These numbers are paralleled in other countries like Canada, also.
But with this constant rise of the usage of social media sites, comes a downside that many attorneys and plaintiffs involved in personal injury cases are experiencing. Claimants have realized the defense will pull out all the stops, which includes using the posts, photos or blogs a plaintiff posts on social media to contradict the claims in their lawsuits. And as some plaintiffs have already learned, just one piece of information shared on these platforms could single-handedly destroy a case.
A woman named Sarah Tambosso got her claim completely rejected after what she posted on social media demolished her credibility in the eyes of a Supreme Court judge. She sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in emotional and economic damages after being involved in two car accidents. She testified that the events drastically changed her life, by causing her to be depressed and to become a “homebody.” Tambosso claims that the accidents were to traumatizing that she could only sustain friendships on the internet.
“I'm not a happy person. My life sucks,” she revealed to a psychiatrist.
But during the course of the trial, the defense presented a large amount of evidence that seemed to prove otherwise. Among this evidence included 194 pages from Tambosso's Facebook account, which showed her being social in a variety of settings - like in bars, river tubing with friends, attending several costume parties and even engaging in a karaoke competition. The judge concluded that these pieces of evidence were “completely inconsistent” with someone who is suffering from acute mental, emotional and psychological trauma.
This phenomenon has caused many to question the validity social media content used as evidence in cases. After all, one cannot be sure that what a plaintiff posts on these sites is an accurate representation of reality or how a person may be feeling. Some experts claim that refuting claims of emotional distress or the loss of enjoyment of life with social media content can be misleading, especially since people tend to display themselves in a positive disposition on these platforms.
“Social media can be a difficult kind of evidence to use because it consists of small snapshots of what people want others to hear,” said Rob Currie, director of the law and technology institute at Dalhousie University.
Cases similar to Tambosso's are occurring more frequently. In fact, it's become such an issue for plaintiffs that more and more personal injury attorneys are coaxing their clients to either be watchful and aware of what they're posting or suspend all of their social media accounts altogether.