Most of us participate in some form of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. But because social media makes it so easy to keep in touch with friends, family members, and colleagues, we often forget that most of what we post to these sites become public record. There is no true privacy online, and even if you later delete an embarrassing (or incriminating) message, there is no guarantee it has not been stored somewhere else, waiting to be used against you at a later time.
One place an unfortunate social media post may work against you is a personal injury lawsuit. In a typical personal injury claim, the plaintiff seeks compensation for economic damages–i.e., medical costs and lost wages incurred as a result of the defendant’s negligence and noneconomic damages for things like “pain and suffering.” The defendant, in turn, will look for any evidence to minimize a potential damage award, and if possible to prove the plaintiff suffered no genuine injury to begin with.
Social media can offer a bonanza of exculpatory evidence to an aggressive defendant. For example, let’s say a plaintiff is in a car accident and sues the defendant for negligence. The plaintiff alleges that she suffered permanent injuries in the accident and is therefore unable to perform the same recreational activities that she could before the accident. If the defense subsequently finds a picture on the plaintiff’s Facebook page of her kayaking two weeks after the accident, that would obviously not be helpful to the plaintiff’s case.