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TikToks After a Car Accident – Can Social Media Affect Injury Claims

Posted in Car Accidents on August 4, 2022

Earlier this year, a video was posted on TikTok of a Tesla S-BLM speeding down Baxter Street in Los Angeles. The car reaches the top of the city’s steepest hill and lifts off, flies over a steep decline, surrounded by gawkers in the street. The nose of the Tesla crashes back to the road. The body flops down in a spray of broken-car shards from the impact.

Further down the street, in a blur of brake lights, the Tesla smashes into two parked vehicles and trash cans on the side of the road. Out of the onlookers’ view, the driver runs away from the scene on foot, leaving a trail of wreckage in their wake.

The intersection in the Echo Park neighborhood has a long history of amateur stunts because of its extreme slant. For over a hundred years, Baxter Street has brought asphalt audiences to watch the wild and dangerous displays of cars in flight.

Soon after the stunt-gone-wrong, Dominykas Zeglaitis posted that he was responsible for the incident on TikTok. Zeglaitis is a social media influencer who goes by the nom de plume, Durte Dom. On TikTok alone, he has more than 2.7 million followers.

He posted a video of himself driving a car. In the video’s text overlay, he wrote, “I just crashed my new Tesla.” The video then cuts to a shot outside the Tesla as it takes flight over Baxter Street. The video collected more than 11 million views before TikTok sensors removed it for violating their community guidelines regarding posting dangerous acts and challenges which might provoke injury or death.

This did not stop Zeglaitis’ antics. He posted another TikTok video claiming to be driving while intoxicated when the crash occurred. Then, he posted another video with N.W.A.’s “F— tha Police” playing behind the written message, “LAPD didn’t like my stunt.” And just when everyone thought he was through, he posted a clip detailing the crash on a local news report and wrote in the video’s caption, “look mom I’m famous.”

All these videos have been removed.

The Hollow Echo of Social Media

Popular YouTubers Alex Choi and Chaz Warren not only disputed that Zeglaitis was driving the car, but Choi also said Zeglaitis was even lying about being there when the failed stunt occurred. They both posted about Zeglaitis making false claims to gain influencer cred and new followers. They both posted videos of the Tesla in flight. Choi also claimed he spoke to the Tesla driver before the crash. 

Zeglaitis has since posted denials of his initial confession and apologies for prodding the police. He claimed it was all a prank. Zeglaitis has been known to create TikTok and YouTube posts of outlandish pranks and stunts. Sometimes, he shares other people’s videos of pranks and stunts on his accounts. And sometimes, he falsely takes credit for those videos.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) opened a tip line and offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of the Tesla driver. Soon after, a spokesman asked callers to stop reporting Dominykas Zeglaitis, because his posts already made him a person of interest in the misdemeanor hit-and-run.

More than 90% of the tips claimed Zeglaitis involvement, and 10% involved Choi and Warren. Even if the driver was one of the three influencers, the case was reduced to white noise on social media.

Choi also recanted his story about speaking to the driver after being interviewed by the LAPD.

This is just the latest in Zeglaitis’ knotted rope of controversy. Recently, he was under fire for allegations of sexual misconduct and rape and made an apology video where he denied the rape but told “unnamed” women he was sorry for aggressively perusing them sexually. 

The Conflict Between a Crash and Social Media

Photos and videos of a crash scene may function as great supporting evidence in a personal injury claim. But when these evidential objects get posted on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, these objects are open to being used against a claimant and can ruin a claim.

Social media posts are often used in injury claims. Insurance companies will scour TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and any other platform that may arise. Their goal is to find any post that might question or damage a plaintiff’s statement or credibility. Photos and videos can damage a case, but so can comments and discussion posts. 

Even privacy settings cannot control every aspect of a social media profile. Things can be shared, or someone might take a screenshot of posts before settings can be changed or posts can be removed. This is especially true of TikTok posts which have been known to be discovered even in the strongest privacy settings. Some common types of security breaches may include: 

  • Friends or family may share a post without realizing its need to stay private
  • Insurers can pose as someone else so account holders will accept them as followers
  • Insurance companies can gain access to accounts by court order or during discovery

If social media posts already exist concerning a crash, it is crucial that a claimant not delete it. Even if the post is innocent, deleting it looks nefarious, and insurers may imply the action makes you look guilty by trying to cover up evidence that shows fault for a crash or dishonesty regarding the recovery.

The best option is to stay off social media sites after a crash, but if social media is unavoidable, stick to some basic post-crash guidelines:

  • Do not accept new followers or friends that are not instantly recognized
  • Do not post photos or videos of the crash  
  • Do not post about the crash or show remorse concerning the crash
  • Do not discuss injuries or recovery
  • Do not post photos of attended events or virtually check in anywhere

More than 4 billion people are on at least one social media platform, and this includes approximately 233 million Americans. For some, social media is an extension of their everyday lives. Personal information is often revealed in the sharing. There should also be a sense of protecting aspects of a user’s personal life, especially if defending this information is detrimental to an injury claim.