Attorney at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling
Practice Areas: Motor Vehicle Accidents, Workers Compensation, Personal Injury
A few months ago, 17-year-old Olivia Passaretti was celebrating New Year’s Eve at her sister’s house. She was a junior in High School. COVID restrictions were easing, her senior year was poised to be a great, a launchpad to her future. She left her sister’s house just after midnight and headed home.
Somewhere in Warwick, Rhode Island, 30-year-old Aramis Segura sped down Interstate 95 in his Mercedes Benz. Ninety minutes before, he had been having some drinks and decided to post on Facebook.
“Really caring less and less today…fuck it we came…To this earth alone we die alone so why do I care.” The post read. Under it, he replied, “I’ma drink and see what happens…I have a Benz. Let’s see if I can [expletive] it up.”
On the highway, Passaretti and Segura met. The right side of Segura’s bumper collided with the left side of the bumper on Passaretti’s Nissan Altima. The contact pushed her car onto the side of the road, over the grassy shoulder, and down an embankment, crashing into a tree. The car rolled over onto its roof, and she died at the scene.
Segura took off running on foot. Police found him later at his Charlestown home, hiding under his bed. His charges included:
- Driving to endanger—resulting in death
- Leaving the scene of an accident—resulting in death
- Operating on a suspended license
- Obstruction of Justice
The driving to endanger charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Passaretti’s family was “shattered” and referred to the crime as “murder,” saying he “deserves the maximum punishment” and should not “see the light of the outside world ever again.”
Segura has a long criminal past, cycling through the justice system since 2010. His rap sheet runs the gamut from stolen vehicles to a list of breaking and entering charges to child molestation and sexual assault.
This can be seen as a worst-case scenario concerning social media and car accidents, but social media is never helpful regarding accidents. Whether it is a premeditated confession or the distraction of social media while driving or revealing sensitive details concerning a car crash in social media posts.
Stories like this may be uncommon—a terrible social media post acting as a tragic premonition. But social media content being used as evidence is common. Many car crash lawsuits have been ruined by claimants’ social media.
How Social Media Damages a Personal Injury Claim
People have their go-to social media—Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, and whatever may hit the app market tomorrow (or that may come out in the future). It has become second nature for so many. When a life event happens, whether joyous or traumatic, people yearn to share the experiences with their social circles—family, friends, online communities.
In the case of sharing information on any social media about a vehicle crash, it rarely, if ever, yields positive results. In some cases, a simple post may seem harmless enough but can hamstring a personal injury claim. In some cases, they can be disastrous, destroying any chance of recovering compensation for losses and injuries.
Insurance companies have plenty of attorneys with teams pouring over the social media accounts of claimants, looking for any posts, comments, or pictures that they can use against them.
There are several ways social media can interfere with litigation, but the four most common ways social media accounts can be used against claimants include:
- Crushing Confidentiality: The details of a personal injury claim should stay confidential. These conversations should stay between a claimant and their lawyer. Once the details concerning an accident or the recovery are made public by sharing online, the attorney/client confidentiality is severed, as are the protections accompanying confidentiality. Information that may become public include:
- Conditions in or surrounding the crash
- A claimant’s physical health and medical situation
- A claimant’s mental health and emotional state
- Using stressful comments as admissions of fault- Anxious people say anxious things. In the aftermath of a car crash, people can apologize for an accident when it was not their fault or exclusively their fault. Innocent comments like “I didn’t have time to stop” or “I didn’t see the car coming” can be used against claimants as confessions or accepting blame.
- Misrepresenting too much online activity– People suffering from injuries often fall back on social media to connect with friends and family, but even if they make no comments concerning the accident, active social media accounts can be used against them. Insurance companies can present online activity as evidence that a claimant’s physical injuries and emotional pain are embellished or exaggerated. This is especially true if a claimant has a cheerful outlook in their posts.
- Refocusing pictures to represent evidence– No matter how much time it takes to recover injuries or mental stress, no matter how much pain and suffering a car crash victim endures, just one posted picture of them enjoying their life in any way could be misinterpreted. Often insurance companies use any and all uploaded photos or videos on a claimant’s account as evidence of lying about a pain and suffering claim.
The Best Answer – Stay Away From the Socials
Disconnecting from all social media apps may sound like an arduous task, even undoable for some. Many use these applications to stay connected with loved ones and prevent loneliness. Many use them to connect with the public for business purposes or stay active in their communities.
Some may say that one answer could be switching and restricting all social media accounts to “private,” but when it comes to litigation, courts have ruled that even content marked as “private” can be deemed as evidence. This includes direct messages.
In the digital age, the intersection of social media and legal proceedings has become increasingly complex. For instance, the risks associated with social media and driving are well-documented, highlighting the need for greater public awareness and caution. Legal experts often categorize such incidents under social media and car crashes, which has become a significant area of concern. After an accident, individuals might not consider the ramifications of their online activity. However, post-accident social media behavior is scrutinized, and certain actions can inadvertently affect the outcome of legal proceedings. Furthermore, understanding the social media trial risks is crucial for anyone involved in litigation, as attorneys and courts are increasingly adept at navigating the digital landscape in the pursuit of evidence.
It should also be said that if someone was already in an accident and posted details about the circumstances of the crash or their recovery, do not try and delete this content or wipe away posts from accounts. The contents may have already been seen, and deleting it can be seen as tampering with evidence.
To prevent any of these frustrations, the best answer is to just stay off social media entirely.
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