Driver’s Social Media Posts Lead His Arrest

In a sign of how the public’s obsession with social media can backfire on those involved in motor vehicle accidents, and the increasing importance of social media in litigation, a driver in Orlando who hit and killed another driver, who was standing near his disabled vehicle on a state highway, and then fled the scene was arrested four months later due to his social media activity.  The driver was identified by police after he had posted pictures of his vehicle on social media showing the damage to his car.  In those same social media posts, he then made false statements about having hit a deer.  Suspicious viewers of the driver’s social media posts alerted police, who investigated and confirmed the vehicle damage was consistent with hitting a person. The driver was later arrested and charged in connection with the death of the individual he had hit.

Although this was a criminal matter, the foolish actions he took in posting photos of his damaged vehicle to social media and then making false statements about the cause of that damage led him to be identified and arrested by police.  Although few people would question there was a good ending in this case, in many instances, posting to social media about your personal injury case can backfire because defense attorneys, their staff and their investigators will be monitoring your use of social media carefully during the entire time your case is pending.  The use of social medial in litigation is increasingly prevelant. Anything you post to either social media or the Internet more generally that can be used to hurt your case can and will be used against you by defense lawyers, which leads experienced Florida personal injury attorneys to often recommend to their clients that they limit the use of social media as much as possible during their case.

The February Hit-and-Run Accident

According to a report from the Lakeland Ledger regarding the accident and the driver’s arrest, the original hit-and-run incident occurred in late February when a 37-year-old man driving on a state highway late at night struck the 70-year-old victim.  At the time, the victim was standing in the right lane of the road behind his disabled vehicle when the driver who later fled the scene plowed into him. A witness who had stopped to help the victim told state troopers who responded to the scene after the hit-and-run collision took place that the vehicle that drove off was a maroon Mustang, which closely resembled the motorist’s actual vehicle.

The motorist then later posted to various social media sites with photos depicting the damage to his car and stating that the damage to his vehicle occurred as a result of a deer that he hit.  Several Good Samaritans saw the posts and alerted police.  This enabled police to trace him back to the accident. The driver’s photographs of the car, which included a shattered windshield and damage to the front right of the car, were more consistent with the vehicle striking a pedestrian than with the claimed collision with a deer.

The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) thereafter contacted the driver.  The driver told police he believed he had hit a deer because he did not see any headlights immediately after the collision, so he kept going.  However, police later obtained a search warrant to search both his phone and his vehicle.  On the driver’s phone, his Internet history showed that he had searched the term “vehicular manslaughter” and for news about the accident.  In addition, when police investigators inspected his car, although he had thoroughly cleaned it, they were still able to take a DNA sample from the windshield that turned out to match the deceased victim’s DNA.  Based on this evidence, the motorist was arrested on charges of leaving the scene of a crash involving death and destroying evidence.

The Use of Social Media In Litigation Involving Personal Injuries

In civil litigation such as personal injury lawsuits, social media is an increasingly useful weapon that can be wielded against those who are involved on both sides of a case.  In this instance, an attorney representing the victim of this motorist’s negligence would potentially be able to use the social media posts to prove that the motorist hit the deceased.  The fact that the driver himself took these photos and posted them to social media would be powerful evidence to present to a jury.

On the other hand, sometimes a personal injury claimant may post something that is inconsistent with their claimed injuries without intending to or even realizing what they are potentially doing to the value of their own case. For instance, a Plaintiff may innocently post a picture of him or herself enjoying an activity like going for a bike ride with friends or going on vacation with his or her children or grandchildren.  However, if the Plaintiff has specifically been advised against taking part in such activities by a physician and is doing so anyway, a defense lawyer will likely point this out to a jury at a trial.

Why Posting on Social Media When Your Case is Pending Is Not The Best Idea

In many cases, social media, and specifically the use of social media by a personal injury plaintiff, can hurt a case more than it can help.  The experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley therefore always caution our clients to keep their social media use to a minimum during their case.  Social media can usually hurt more than it can help.  If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you can be sure that the defense attorneys and their staff and/or investigators are monitoring your use of social media very carefully during the entire pendency of your personal injury case in case they find something that may be beneficial to them.  Although you may not believe that a particular post, or especially a photograph, posted to Facebook, Instagram or another social media website may have the ability to harm your case, you would be surprised at the ability of creative defense lawyers to spin even innocuous seeming social media posts or photographs to convince a jury that your injuries either are not as serious as they are or are being exaggerated.  There is no doubt that the use of social media in litigation will continue to increase.

Contact the Attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley

If the negligence of another driver caused you to suffer injuries in a motor vehicle accident in Florida, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys of Schwed, Adams, & McGinley, P.A. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined practice representing victims of all sorts of motor vehicle accidents.  Therefore, if you, a family member or a loved one have been injured or killed as a result of another motorist’s negligence, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A. today at 877-694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com for a free consultation.