Social Media and your Personal Injury Claim
After an accident, one of the first pieces of advice that your lawyer will (or should) give you is to shut down your social media accounts. While most clients are quick to follow their lawyer’s advice, personal injury claims can go on for years and clients often are not willing to give up social media for the extended period of time. People with ongoing personal injury claims often assume that so long as they are not posting comments or images showing them doing physical activities, ICBC will not be able to use their accounts against them in Court. This assumption is wrong and if you have an ongoing claim you need to know the risks associated with your social media accounts.
The obvious – Most people post pictures on social media which show them at their best. Unfortunately, these pictures can be misinterpreted. You may have been in pain all day but when you are posing for the camera, you smile and pretend that your back injury does not exist. Furthermore, pictures can be taken out of context. Posting a picture of you at a golf course can easily be interpreted as you out enjoying a round of golf despite your injury. In fact, you may have been at the course for a wedding or some other event. Context is often lost in a picture and these types of pictures can lead an insurance company, a judge or a jury to believe that you are not as injured as you are suggesting.
The not so obvious – The less obvious risk is that you are giving ICBC adjusters and insurance defence lawyers the opportunity to paint a picture of your life using your social media accounts. While your social media accounts may not show any one particular image or post which weakens your case, it can paint a narrative which suggests that you are not as injured as you say you are, or that your quality of life has not been affected as much as you claim.
A recent BC Supreme Court decision in Tambosso v Holmes, 2015 BCSC 359 involved a claim for both physical and psychological injuries arising from a car accident. The Plaintiff in this case was claiming that the accident drastically changed her life in a negative way. At paragraph 174 of the decision, the Judge determined that the Plaintiff’s social media accounts showed that she continued to enjoy a good quality of life and that as a result, her testimony at Trial was not credible, as it did not reflect the realities of her life. The Judge stated the following:
“I conclude that based on this Facebook evidence, in particular the photos of continued attendance at social events and posts from friends, that the plaintiff had a very active social life following the 2008 and 2010 accidents. The social life portrayed by her Facebook profile is consistent with the social life of someone who went through three engagements, the birth of a child, and a marriage. It is completely inconsistent with the evidence the plaintiff gave at trial and to the experts that she was a “homebody” whose “life sucked” and “only had friends on the internet”.
This case, and many like it, should serve as a warning to people in personal injury actions. Your social media accounts can come back to haunt you, so post at your own peril!