When involved in a motor vehicle accident many individuals claim to be depressed and injured. How do you assess how depressed someone truly is? Is Facebook an appropriate measure?
A recent debate has stirred regarding the use of Facebook and social media images as evidence in court. Some legal practitioners have turned to social media to establish that the plaintiff is not in fact depressed. Legal practitioners are using the plaintiff’s Facebook pictures and status updates to establish the plaintiffs’ healthy and active social life. For example, if a person is claiming to be depressed and to have lost interest in spending time with their friends due to their chronic pain but then posts pictures of their white water rafting trip with their pals – there’s a bit of discrepancy in their story. Some courts will take this into consideration while others won’t. What’s the reason for the inconsistency?
Some judges argue that Facebook is often used to project a certain image, generally one of happiness and living an exciting life; accordingly, what we see online is not always a proper depiction of the person’s life. Secondly, Facebook only captures moments and is not an accurate evaluation of someone’s daily life. Third, individuals suffering from depression may not publicize their struggle with depression and may prefer to hide it with pictures and statuses that suggest otherwise. Finally, depression isn’t always visible to outsiders.
Conversely, some legal professionals argue that Facebook is a legitimate source for evidence as it captures how the person is spending their time. If a person tells their psychiatrist that they are suffering from depression and have no interest in going out and have no friends but then post pictures of them at a bar with all their friends every Friday, there is reason to doubt the individuals claim. In a more extreme example, if an individual states that they can no longer partake in activities they once enjoyed such as running but then post pictures of them winning a marathon after their accident – again there’s reason for doubt. Based on this context some lawyers argue that there is no reason for these pictures not to be accepted as evidence.
A reader asked me what my opinion was on the matter and I will address that in this section. Don’t do it – if you’re involved in a personal injury case, shut down social media for a while or refrain from posting pictures and status updates that can be misconstrued. It’s an easy step to take to avoid complications in your case. In respect to the use of Facebook pictures as evidence, I believe it is acceptable to use social media pictures as evidence but with discretion. For instance, if a plaintiff is claiming they can’t partake in certain activities but then post pictures of doing just that, any reasonable person would question the validity of the plaintiffs claim. False claims only waste the court’s time.
Nonetheless, I believe legal practitioners need to be careful when claiming that someone is not depressed because they smile in a Facebook picture – depression is far more complicated than a smile. I also understand that some individuals feel this is a violation of their privacy; however, if you keep an open profile your privacy is likely to be compromised.
What do you think?
Points of discussion
1. Do you think Facebook pictures should be used as evidence?
2. Where would you draw the line for accepting Facebook post and images as evidence?
Did you learn something new or enjoy what you read? Press “like” and subscribe!