SUCCESS STORY

Facebook Detective: Using Social Media to Debunk Exaggerated Claims

Claims Alleged: Personal Injury

Injuries Alleged: Back and Neck Injuries

Amount Claimed: $25,000

The Overview

A Smith Freed Eberhard attorney harnessed a plaintiff’s social media postings as evidence to prove the embellishment of his injuries following an automobile accident. Based on the demonstration, the defendant received a favorable outcome.

The Background Story

After being rear-ended by the defendant’s car, in an accident that caused no visible damage to the plaintiff’s SUV, the plaintiff filed suit alleging soft tissue back and neck injuries.  Plaintiff’s counsel relied on damage to the defendant’s small sedan to build a case culminating in a $25,000 final demand that included $9,200 in medical bills. After receiving three and a half months of treatment for his alleged back and neck injuries, the plaintiff then claimed, over a year later (and after a nine month gap in treatment) that he also suffered from a sprained wrist and developed a ganglion cyst as a result of the accident and that his back and neck pain was permanent and ongoing.  Trial occurred four years after the accident.

The Strategy

To make her case, defense counsel adeptly used the testimony of the plaintiff’s experts against him. Plaintiff’s counsel brought in three highly personable treating providers who all eventually conceded both that the cyst could not have been caused by accident and that the plaintiff’s continued wrist complaints were different compared to what he was complaining about a few months after the accident. They also all admitted to not having seen him for treatment in years and had no knowledge regarding his current condition. Defense counsel then pointed to a litany of Facebook posts in which the plaintiff shared images and accounts that undermined his claims of injury, including documentation of continued weight lifting, participation in team sports, and photos in which he is carrying young adults and teens on his back and in his arms just a few months after the accident.

The Outcome

By shifting the theme of the case to an illustration of the plaintiff’s exaggerated claims of continuing ongoing pain, it became clear that the accident and its aftermath amounted to what was really just a three month blip on plaintiff’s final year of high school. It did not substantially affect his life at all.  After offering $18,000 in response to a final demand of $25,000, the defendant received a judgment of only $13,500.

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