The auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm recently became aware of a case out of the Bronx, NY, wherein a 19-year-old girl took to social media after hitting a woman with her car. The woman, a 55-year-old grandmother, eventually died from head trauma, and the teen’s Twitter account, which she posted on repeatedly after the accident, will undoubtedly be used against her in court. We would like to highlight this case to remind drivers of the importance of technological restraint after accidents.
The Bronx accident occurred the day before Thanksgiving 2013, as the teen rounded a corner in a Ford Focus of the same year. She struck the woman, Maria Lucaj, just after 6 p.m., later telling police that she did not see her. Lucaj was walking on a marked crosswalk just steps from her home and had the right of way. She died four days after the impact from severe head injuries.
This is a tragic case made even more devastating by the teen’s actions in the hours and days following the crash. The girl, Ashley Davios, tweeted in the ensuing days photos of her thanksgiving meal, and other nonsensical phrases via Facebook and Twitter, outraging Lucaj’s family, who were watching their loved one die in the hospital. To date, Davios has not yet been charged, however, an investigation into the fatal crash is ongoing.
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For all parties involved in the accident, the first thing to remember is that everyone (including police, insurance companies and prosecutors) can see and access social media accounts and even text messages. If they are motivated enough, such as when there is major injury or damage to property, law enforcement officials will find ways to access even the most “private” accounts.
The bottom line: lawyers can and do access social media accounts and text transcripts during litigation, should the case go to court. It is far too easy to take a photo or statement out of context, and any conversations on social media can and will be used against you.
Social media has become so ingrained in our culture that we have become immune to its implications – evidenced by the 19-year-old girl who runs over a grandmother the day before Thanksgiving, shortly after Tweeting and re-Tweeting mindless statements. Or the man who recently hit a car while driving home drunk, posted about the hit on Facebook, and was later arrested and jailed after his post was submitted to police.
These types of incidents are more likely to show up as relevant evidence in family law and criminal cases, however their presence in auto accident or DUI suits still abound. Take, for example, the man who recently posted a few Instagram selfies (Oxford’s word of the year, look it up) which ultimately landed him in jail, charged with nearly 150 counts of felony.
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A sheriff in Florida came across the Instagram account of 19-year-old Dupree Johnson, on which he had several photos of himself holding guns, jewelry, and high-priced electronics. The sheriff knew the man to be a felon, previously charged with burglary, grand theft and firearm possession, and subsequently filed a search warrant. At his home, Florida officers found stolen pistols, a Glock, $250,000 in stolen jewelry, and other valuables. He was eventually charged with 142 felony crimes, and is in jail.
Of course, not all cases are so egregious. Young adults are most likely to have their posts and conversations used against them in court, however, so this demographic would be wise to keep quiet. Not using social media at all in the aftermath of a crash is the only way to fully protect yourself against liability.
Lastly, it is critically important to contact a personal injury attorney in the event of any kind of vehicular accident. Speaking with an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the legal process is the best bet you have for gaining compensation for your injuries or proving your innocence in court. Our firm offers free, no-obligation legal consultations to injured clients nationwide.