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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

Florida personal injury lawyers

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    The Role of Social Media Evidence in Personal Injury Claims

    Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat have become ubiquitous in many people’s daily lives. These platforms are tools for social interaction but have also emerged as significant elements in legal proceedings, particularly in personal injury claims. As people increasingly share their lives online, the information posted on social media can play a pivotal role in personal injury cases in Florida.

    Understanding Social Media Evidence

    Social media evidence refers to any information posted on social media platforms that can be used in court to support or refute legal claims. This includes photos, videos, posts, comments, and even location check-ins. In personal injury cases, such content can provide critical insights into the claimant’s physical condition, activities, and emotional state before and after the alleged injury.

    Admissibility of Social Media Evidence

    According to the Florida Evidence Code, social media evidence must be relevant and not overly prejudicial for it to be admissible in Florida courts. This means the evidence must directly relate to the case, and its inclusion must not unfairly prejudice the jury against the opposing party.

    Additionally, the evidence must be authenticated, meaning the party presenting it must prove that the content is genuine and not altered or fabricated.

    1. Relevance: Social media posts can demonstrate a claimant’s physical activity which might contradict claims of severe physical limitations. For instance, a person claiming debilitating back pain but posting recent pictures hiking or engaging in sports could undermine their credibility.
    2. Authentication: Establishing that the social media content is what it purports to be often involves digital forensics or testimony from the person who created the account or post.

    Privacy Rights and Social Media Evidence in Personal Injury Claims

    In personal injury cases in Florida, the use of social media evidence must carefully consider privacy rights. Under Florida law, including statutory and common law protections and the explicit right to privacy in Florida’s Constitution (Article I, Section 23), individuals are protected from undue intrusion into their private lives.

    As noted above, courts in Florida typically require a showing that social media evidence is relevant and necessary before it can be accessed, especially if it involves private content. This process often begins with an examination of publicly available posts to justify a deeper inquiry into more private areas.

    For those involved in personal injury claims, it is crucial to:

    • Be Cautious: Understand that information shared on social media can be scrutinized in legal disputes.
    • Consult an Attorney: Get advice on managing social media activities to safeguard privacy.
    • Adjust Privacy Settings: Limit the visibility of posts and be mindful of sharing sensitive information to minimize legal exposure.

    Impact on Personal Injury Claims

    Social media evidence can significantly influence the outcome of personal injury claims in several ways:

    • Credibility of the Claimant: Posts that contradict a claimant’s injury claims can damage their credibility and potentially decrease the compensation awarded. For instance, posting about physical activities or vacations shortly after an accident may suggest a lesser impact of personal injuries than stated in the claim.
    • Scope of Damages: Social media posts can also affect the assessment of damages. For example, posts that depict emotional distress or a lack of social engagement post-accident can support claims for emotional damages. But the opposite can be true: someone claiming injuries and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life might have to explain away social media posts of vacations or happy family or personal events.
    • Discovery and Litigation Strategy: Lawyers routinely search for social media evidence during the discovery phase. Finding such evidence can shape the litigation strategy, including settlement discussions and trial tactics.

    Legal Considerations and Best Practices

    Given the potential impact of social media on personal injury claims, it’s crucial for claimants to be cautious about their online presence. Legal professionals often advise clients to:

    • Limit Social Media Use: Avoid posting new content or discussing the case on social media during active litigation.
    • Review Privacy Settings: Ensure that profiles are private and that information is not publicly accessible.
    • Consult with an Attorney: Discuss any potential posts or existing social media content with legal counsel to understand its possible implications.
    • Do Not Delete Posts: Unless you are advised differently, do not delete anything that has been posted or change them.  This may constitute evidence tampering by some courts if the post is potentially relevant to your condition or the circumstances of the case.  It is better not to alter or delete any posts.

    Social media can be very damaging to an injured plaintiff’s case, so the best strategy is to avoid posting anything about the accident and your injuries unless and until you consult with a qualified trial lawyer.

    As social media continues to integrate into everyday life, its role in legal contexts, especially in personal injury claims, grows more significant. Understanding the nuances of how social media evidence can affect a personal injury claim is essential for legal professionals and claimants alike. Being proactive about managing social media use and seeking expert legal advice can help safeguard the interests of those involved in personal injury cases.

    If you or someone you know is navigating the complexities of a personal injury claim, remember the significant role social media can play. Contact Leighton Law today for expert guidance on how to manage your digital footprint effectively and protect your legal rights. Our experienced team is ready to help you secure the best possible outcome in your case.

    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite

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