Social Media and Your Personal Injury Case – Root v. Balfour Beatty Construction

Social media accounts seem to reveal a lot about a person’s life. You may not realize that what you post online could be subject to court analysis in criminal cases and civil cases, such as personal injury claims. It has long been established that persons or entities against whom you file a personal injury lawsuit can ask the court to grant permission to use your Facebook statuses, likes, tweets, photos, comments, videos, and other relevant evidence in a particular case.

In Root v. Balfour Beatty Construction, LLC, a three-year-old boy was the victim of a hit-and-run pedestrian accident near a construction zone. The small child was being pulled in a wagon by his aunt when he ran out of the wagon and across the construction zone before being hit by an automobile. The vehicle driver failed to stop and dragged the boy for a few feet. As a result, the child suffered extensive injuries, including permanent neurological damage.

The automobile driver was arrested and subsequently sentenced to 20 months in prison.

The child’s mother filed a personal injury claim against the city, the construction company, and subcontractors, alleging they had failed to take reasonable care in ensuring the site would be safe for nearby pedestrians.

The defendants countered with affirmative defenses of negligent entrustment by the mother as well as failure to supervise by the aunt. The defendant also requested all of the mother’s Facebook activity, including posts, videos, comments, likes, shares, photos, all postings related to psychological or counseling care of the mother prior to and after the accident, and all postings related to the personal injury lawsuit after the accident. The defendant’s intentions were to use this information to make inferences about the mother’s personal relationships, mental health, and alleged use of alcohol and drugs.

The Second District stated that, under Florida law, social media evidence is generally admissible under the basic rules of discovery. However, the party requesting the evidence must demonstrate that it is relevant to the case at hand and either admissible or reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. Here, the court held that the defendant’s request was overly broad and not directly pertinent to the accident. Therefore, the defendant failed to meet the appropriate standard, and the content of the mother’s Facebook page was not admissible.

With the prevalence of social media activity in our society, it can be easy to forget that our seemingly benign posts can impact our future legal claims. Due to this fact, we should be cognizant of our online activities. Even merely commenting or sharing information online can affect a pending case. If you are facing litigation or are in the midst of a legal case, you should significantly limit communication on all online platforms, especially as it might pertain to your personal injury case.

If you’ve been injured by the carelessness of someone else, you should seek the representation of personal injury lawyer Robert Dixon. To learn more about your legal options, contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.

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