What you post online matters in a personal injury case. As of August 27th 2015, 1 in 7 people on earth used Facebook to connect with friends and family. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and the so called “twittersphere” have shaped the way we interact and connect with friends, family and acquaintances. The advance (or as some say “regress”) of the online social life has altered the way we present ourselves to the world and how we relate to others within the online sphere. Look no further for evidence of this change than the introduction of words such as “selfie”, “humblebrag” and “slacktivism”, to the English lexicon. For those not in the know, a “humblebrag” is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud”. Humblebrags, Selfies and Slacktivists are all creatures of the online self of social media users.
The online persona we present to the world is often our “best”selves, an idealized version of ourselves and the activities we take part in. After all, who can resist the occasional a selfie or instagram at the gym or a photo op at the top of a mountain to feel good and let our social media friends know we have not resigned ourselves to a lifetime on the couch. However, that selfie, or “gram” (as they are called) is only a tiny snapshot of ourselves, a presentation of our ideal self and how we want to appear to the world. The life we project on social media not always a true reflection of our real selves. This is especially relevant in personal injury cases.
A recent case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Tambosso v. Holmes 2015 BCSC 359 illustrates the inherent risk of our idealized online persona. A 27 year old young woman was injured in two car accidents. Before the first accident, she had an active social life and her own events and promotions company in Whistler, while working her way up the management ladder in the hotel and hospitality industry. While suffering significant injuries in both accidents, the first accident was argued to have resulted in cognitive or psychological difficulties including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and mild traumatic brain injury. She claimed that as a result of the PTSD and stress suffered as a result of the aftermath of the first accident, her life completely changed and she went from being a vibrant, outgoing, industrious, ambitious, physically active, progressive and healthy young woman to that of a housebound, depressed, lethargic, forgetful, unmotivated woman who is unable to concentrate and cannot work.
To rebut this, the defence entered the woman’s Facebook posts as evidence at trial. Despite seeking over $270,000 in damages, the woman was only awarded $36,000 partly based on the evidence of her active social life on Facebook. Justice Jenkins approached the evidence with caution, stating that persons posting the events of their life on social media tend to post positive events and activities to portray themselves as social and avoid posting negative thoughts, events and news. However, after reviewing the woman’s posts on Facebook and the tagged photos of her at various social events, Justice Jenkins had the following to say:
“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”.”
For anyone involved in litigation over injuries sustained from an accident, or who is seeking the help of a lawyer, this case serves as a great reason to re-evaluate your online profile to ensure that you are not posting content or presenting a lifestyle that could be used as evidence to negate the severity of your injuries or downplay the effect of the accident on your life.