The New York State Court of Appeals recently ruled that regardless of an individual’s privacy settings on his or her social media account, photos and other content posted to that account may be used as evidence in court if it is relevant a personal injury case or any other case at hand. This ruling came after a woman who sustained an injury in a 2011 horseback riding accident was required to provide the defendant in her case, the owner of the horse whose alleged negligence resulted in the woman’s spinal injury and brain injury, with images from her private Facebook account that show her before and after her accident.
Through a personal injury claim, an individual can seek compensation for the reduced quality of life he or she suffers as the result of an accident. This can include an inability to enjoy the activities he or she enjoyed before being injured. To demonstrate this loss, the plaintiff must provide sufficient evidence to support his or her personal injury claim.
Photographs Help Tell the Story of an Accident and the Victim’s Recovery
In a legal proceeding, the discovery process is the point at which both parties examine the evidence provided by the other. This helps them both gain a better sense of each others’ arguments to develop their own legal strategies.
Images are often exchanged during the discovery process. In personal injury cases, these photographs show how the plaintiff looked before the accident, how he or she looks after the accident, and in some cases, what the injury looked like at the moment of the accident.
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Controversy Over Individuals’ Privacy and the Court’s Rights
This ruling came after back and forth disputes between the defendant and the court over whether the defendant could use private images from the plaintiff’s social media profile to defend his case against her claim that the injury terminated her ability to enjoy the activities she enjoyed before being injured. On Facebook and other social media platforms, users have the ability to keep their content private, implementing tiers of accessibility based on their relationships with others on the platform.
In 2014, the plaintiff was ordered to provide the defendant with photographs from before the accident she planned to use at trial and non-explicit images and messages from after the accident. She appealed the ruling and in 2015, an appellate court stated that the defendant could not seek evidence beyond what the plaintiff provided for the trial. Later, this ruling was overturned and the original order was reinstated after the judge wrote that private materials may be used in the discovery process if they are relevant to the case.
Work with an Experienced Long Island Personal Injury Lawyer at Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP
Pursuing compensation for your damages through a personal injury lawsuit is not easy. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can advise you through this complex process can make it a little bit easier for you. Contact Richard Jaffe, Long Island personal injury attorney team at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP today to schedule your free consultation with us. If you’re unable to come to us, we will gladly make accommodations or come to you!