How Your Social Media Presence Can Impact Your Personal Injury Claim

April 19, 2016

Prepared by Alanna Mar, Articling Student Almost 1.6 billion people are active every month on Facebook. Instagram has more than 400 million monthly active users. While many social media users may consider their activity inconsequential, social media posts can cause serious damage to your personal injury claim. In a recent case in British Columbia, the plaintiff claimed damages for two car accidents she was involved in. In addition to her physical injuries, the plaintiff claimed she had suffered psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and mild traumatic brain injury. Her psychiatrist’s report indicated she stated that she had gone “into isolation” and become “emotionally detached” and “increasingly housebound”. While the judge accepted the plaintiff had suffered some of the injuries she had claimed, he relied on the plaintiff’s Facebook posts to reject her psychological injury claims. Reviewing the plaintiff’s 194 Facebook posts over a four-year period, the judge found, “[t]here are extensive status updates, photographs, and other posts to the Plaintiff’s Facebook page that at face value appear to directly contradict her evidence regarding her alleged injuries, and her state of mind following the 2008 accident in particular.” The plaintiff argued that people tend to post positive events and activities on Facebook. The judge agreed to approach the Facebook evidence with caution, but still identified numerous examples he found damaging to the plaintiff’s credibility, including photos from concerts, large parties, and outdoor activities with friends. Overall, the judge concluded: [b]ased 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”. While there is an argument that people often only share the best parts of their lives on social media, if you are involved in a personal injury claim as a plaintiff, you should be aware of how your social media presence reflects your current circumstances. Your social media accounts should be set to the highest privacy setting, and you should be careful of how what you choose to post may be seen by the court. — Tambosso v Holmes, 2015 BCSC 359 at para 125. Ibid at para 171. Ibid at para 174.