It may seem as if anything you share on your Instagram page or any other social media account is there for two reasons: fun and entertainment. But the line between “fun” and “serious” has become more blurred than ever with Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter posts being used as evidence in personal injury cases.
A case in hand: a Monroe County, Pennsylvania judge ordered access to plaintiff’s Instagram account to verify the severity of her injuries after a car accident. What seemed unthinkable just a few years ago is more real than we could have ever imagined: social media posts are becoming valuable and solid evidence in personal injury cases and litigation.
“What you post on your social media accounts may negatively affect your personal injury case,” warns our Los Angeles car accident attorney at the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg. “As Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have become a major and almost inseparable element of our lives, courts begin to adapt and go hand in hand with technological advances.”
How social media can be a tool in personal injury litigation
So what happened in Monroe County exactly? And could this happen to you? If you are an active social media user and do not refrain from posting things on your social media accounts even during litigation without putting much thought into how your posts may affect your case, then this could happen to you.
Monroe County Court of Common Pleas Judge David J. Williamson ordered access to plaintiff Catherine Kelter’s Instagram account after the defendant expressed doubt over the seriousness of the plaintiff’s injuries, which she claimed were caused by a car accident.
The defendant had to request access to Kelter’s Instagram page, which the woman switched from public to private after certain posts on her account were brought to the defense’s attention. The judge granted access to Kelter’s private Instagram account in order to verify her injuries.
According to the defense, Kelter had uploaded images of her shoveling snow and going to the gym, something that would not be possible for someone with the injuries she claimed to have after that car accident. The existence of these images prompted the court to call into question the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries, compromising the validity of her personal injury claim.
How social media could ruin your personal injury case
“Wait, but what about online privacy?” you may wonder. Our best car accident attorneys in Los Angeles and all across California explain that it would be naive to think even for a second that the things you post on your social media accounts – especially during litigation – would not be used against you.
Judge Williamson, who ordered access to Kelter’s Instagram account, explained his decision by stating that “there does not even appear to be an expectation of privacy on social media as it relates to litigation because the account holder is sharing information with others in a public or quasi-public domain.”
Fair enough. If this case has shocked you, it should serve as a valuable lesson that you should always think twice before posting anything on social media when you are in the middle of litigation or are considering filing a personal injury claim after a car accident or any other accident.
Not only can your photos or posts raise doubt over the validity of your claim, but also prompt the opposing side to misinterpret your photos or messages or pull them out of context. Whenever posting anything on social media, keep in mind that this information could be monitored by the person you are suing and/or their lawyer.
Consult with our Los Angeles car accident attorney from the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg to find out more about the dangers of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and how your social media presence can ruin your personal injury case.