Personal injury attorneys have been advising clients for years now to stay away from social media if they are injured and pursuing a lawsuit — which is advice at least one New Jersey man probably wishes he’d heeded.
A $1 million auto accident verdict was recently overturned because in the original trial judge didn’t allow Facebook photos of the injury victim into evidence for the jury to see. Now, the photos will be used by the defense to try to challenge the credibility of the victim’s story.
According to news reports about the case, the victim’s car was hit by another vehicle. The victim declined medical treatment at the scene and was able to drive home, but developed pain that eventually sent him to a chiropractor. His condition seemed to worsen, and he ended up receiving chiropractic care, massages and acupuncture treatment.
Eventually, the victim ended up on crutches, was diagnosed with disc problems in his back and had to see pain management for epidural injections. He claimed that his life was significantly altered by the car accident and his injuries to the point where he was unable to live a normal life or travel.
A jury listened to the case for four days and promptly awarded the victim over $3 million in damages, although that was reduced by the judge to merely $1.1 million. The defendant and the injury victim both appealed the case — the victim seeking the original $3 million and the defendant seeking to get certain pieces of evidence into the trial.
In one photo, which was posted to Facebook, the victim was in workout clothing at a gym. In another, he was standing next to a set of jet skis. Both photos would seem to directly contradict the victim’s story that he is in too much pain to leave the home or travel. The judge hearing the appeal says there seems to be no reason not to allow the defense to introduce the photos and give the victim an opportunity to explain.
Cases like these illustrate how carefully insurance companies and defendants will scrutinize social media for anything that could damage your car accident case. It’s far wiser to simply stay away from the computer while your case proceeds.