Can I take a vacation if I was badly injured in a Virginia car accident?

If you follow our blog, you’ll know recently we wrote an article about important “take-aways” from the Gwyneth Paltrow Injury Trial that recently ended with Gwyneth (the defendant) winning the case.  One aspect of the defense, which we believe the jury found compelling was cross examination that focused on the Plaintiff’s vacations and travels following his alleged injuries. 

Indeed, Paltrow’s defense team re-called the Plaintiff in that case, Terry Sanderson, at the end of the trial, specifically to cross examine him about vacations he had taken after the ski crash in this case.  You can watch Mr. Sanderson’s cross-examination here. Their goal was to convince the jury that Mr. Sanderson couldn’t have been injured if he was able to vacation. And presumably imply that he was “cashing in” early on his desired pay-day in this case. 

Wait, James, are you saying that I can’t take a vacation if I was injured in a Virginia car accident?

To be clear, Mr. Sanderson traveled extensively after his ski crash with Ms. Paltrow. The evidence appeared to show that he made multiple overseas trips, multiple hikes, and countless other travels. However, as this trial made clear, you have to assume that vacations and other activities will try to be used against you by the defense to claim that you’re not truly still suffering from your crash.

Further, you need to consider your activities in the context of your injuries.  For instance, if you’re claiming a mild Traumatic Brain Injury that causes you light and noise sensitivity, ongoing dizziness, and persistent confusion, you can see how multiple overseas travels may conflict with your claimed injuries.  Indeed, getting on a plane and going to sunny destinations that require the stress of travel may indeed conflict with your claims.

So, while we say, “yes” you can still live your life. Keep in context what you’re doing.  And also make sure to getting the blessing of your doctor.

Will they look at my Facebook (and other social media)?

You should assume, as they did to Mr. Sanderson, the defense will review your social media.  And any posts you make following the accident that can be used against you.  So, if you’re claiming severe limited shoulder range due to your car crash, but post photographs of you zip lining, they will use that against you.

What’s more, you should assume that the defense will get more than your social media.  Indeed, we’ve dealt with cases where the defense has hired private investigators to try to “catch” you doing things you claim that you can’t do.  Even further, the defense will like ask through the litigation case for any photographs you have taken or travel plans that you have made, which you will be required to disclose.

They showed photographs of the Plaintiff smiling, at a party, and at a concert?  Am I supposed to just be unhappy?

Yes, they did. And given that Mr. Sanderson lost this trial, it’s likely that the jury found these photographs compelling.  With that said, every case has its own facts. And based upon Mr. Sanderson’s cross-examination, these photographs weren’t the most damning part of his case.

Why is an “Escape Room” relevant?

One interesting cross-examination moment of Mr. Sanderson was when they asked about him visiting an “Escape Room.” For those of you unaware, Escape Rooms are places you go with friends and family, and as part of the game, you are provided various clues to help you “escape.” They are essentially living puzzles.

Because Mr. Sanderson was claiming a brain injury, and issues with mental processing, the defense highlighted that Escape Rooms take a lot of thinking.  

They will use your deposition to cross examine you at trial.

Another take-away from this cross-examination was they used Mr. Sanderson’s previously-taken deposition against him when he tried to deny questions or claim that “he couldn’t recall” the answers.  If your Virginia car accident case requires litigation, you will most likely be deposed prior to trial. 

During that deposition, you swear to tell the truth under oath, and are asked many questions about your accident, injuries and recoveries.  If you later change your story at trial, the attorney will “confront” you with this prior deposition. And it can truly harm your credibility.

So, James, is my Virginia car crash case tanked?  I vacationed after my accident.

To be clear, every case is different.  If you took a vacation after your car crash, you need to let your attorney know so that they will be prepared for this type of questioning during both your deposition and at trial.  One tactic your attorney may choose to use at trial is having you bring it out during your direct testimony. 

At Abrenio Law, we may do this because we don’t want a jury thinking that you’re trying to “hide” your post-accident activities.  What’s more, if you’ve already discussed it on direct, it may take some of the winds out of the sails of the defense’s cross examination. 

What if you’re considering taking a vacation after your crash?

We believe knowledge is power.  We’d strongly urge you to consider the above information, and watch Mr. Sanderson’s cross examination.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take vacation.  What it means is to take an honest assessment of what you’re planning to do and considering whether what you’re able to do comports with what you’re claiming in your accident case. 

For example, if you claim that you can’t stand at work because you get dizzy after long periods of standing.  But then you plan on taking a day’s-long hike, perhaps your claim is weak. However, if you are claiming that you get dizzy from standing but are just going to the beach to seat under the sun and not do much more, well those are two different scenarios.

Look, the reality is there’s no perfect answer here. There is risk with everything you do. But to be clear, there’s never a guarantee that you’ll get paid in your car accident case. And we also believe that good mental health helps with recovery. So, anything you do, just make sure your doctor gives you a blessing.

Still have questions?

Make sure to check out our Personal Injury & Criminal Defense Practice Pages where we’ve answered many other questions you likely have.  James Abrenio is a Fairfax-Based Personal Injury & Criminal Defense attorney who practices throughout Northern Virginia. You can learn more about James Abrenio, some of our Prior Results, and Read Our Reviews.  Make sure to contact us at Ph. 703-570-4180 for your Free Consultation.