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Social Media and Personal Injury Plaintiffs

Posted by Justin R. Wilmers | Jun 10, 2022 | 0 Comments

In today's modern era, social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are ubiquitous. In 2020, over 3.6 billion were using social media globally and that number is projected to exceed 4.41 billion by 2025. From pictures of your trendy avocado toast to family vacations, it has become the norm to share your life on the internet. In other words, it seems impossible to socially participate in today's world without having at least some form of social media account - in fact, this article is being shared on social media as you read this.

However, plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits should think twice before sharing their life with the world. Under California law, social media and other electronic communications are qualified as "written material" and any such post, comment or geo-tag, can and will be used against you. 

Breaking the Hypothetical - A Case Study

Omeshia Daniels was involved in a car accident through no fault of her own in Georgia. In 2013, Ms. Daniels sued for injuries she sustained in the accident including a broken arm and lacerated forehead. Ms. Daniels claimed that as a result of her injuries, she could no longer work as a hairstylist and she suffered from emotional distress due to a large scar on her forehead. 

After trial, the jury awarded Ms. Daniels $237,000. However, after the defense attorneys showed tweets of Ms. Daniels partying in New Orleans, enjoying spring break on a beach and carrying a purse on her previously broken arm, the jury cut Ms. Daniels' verdict to $142,000 - nearly half of the original verdict. Although this was a clearly unfair assessment by the jury, the Daniels verdict represents the powerful influence social media has on a potential juror's psyche. It should also serve as a lesson for every injured plaintiff that what you post on the internet will be unfairly used against you to limit your recovery. 

My Experience: Billing Hours for Creeping on Social Media

As a former defense attorney, I was literally paid by the hour to scour the internet for a plaintiff's social media account to find any potential post that may discredit their injury claims. Went on a hike with your dog? You must not be hurt. On a family vacation? You must be faking. While this seems evil (it is), this is the exact type of tactics that a personal injury plaintiff will face from insurance companies and their defense attorneys - a motivating factor for my choice to represent and help real people fight the injustice often employed by insurance companies. After all, I think we all know by now that social media profiles do not accurately reflect a person's reality but instead only highlight the best parts of one's life - no one is going to post pictures of themselves writhing in pain or losing their job. As a result, social media profiles are heavily biased towards happiness and not the feelings of hopelessness many injury plaintiffs are experiencing behind the scenes. 

Do's and Dont's

DO - make your social media profiles private.

DON'T - post about your case. 

DO - be aware of what your friends and family may be posting about you. 

DON'T - accept friend requests from people you do not know. 

DOhire an experienced personal injury attorney when injured.

While it may seem like a burden to refrain from participating in the interconnected world of social media while your injury case is pending, the burden of not receiving the recovery you are entitled to will be far worse. 


About the Author

Justin R. Wilmers

Justin R. Wilmers is the co-founder of Miller Wilmers, APC and former collegiate ice hockey national champion.


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