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Wrongful Death Lawsuits in the Age of Social Media

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Wrongful Death Suits in the Age of Social Media
October 13, 2023

Social media has become an integral part of our lives in today’s digital world. It connects us with friends and strangers alike. While social media brings many benefits, it also raises serious concerns that cannot be ignored.

Studies show that social media can play a crucial role in determining liability and seeking justice for wrongful deaths.

Unfortunately, age restrictions alone may not be enough to protect children and other vulnerable users from harmful content. This includes cyberbullying, sexual abuse, suicide, and dangerous challenges. What can families do if a loved one has passed away in a wrongful death incident involving social media?

Social Media and the Wrongful Deaths of Children

Children are a very vulnerable age group. Sadly, the exposure of minor users to inappropriate content is quite common online. This is worsened when social media platforms fail to enforce age restrictions.

This neglect leads to exposing kids to dangerous and problematic usage. Children can quickly become targets of online harassment. This unwanted contact can have detrimental effects on their mental health and self-esteem.

Additionally, some young people are susceptible to social pressure. As a result, they may develop suicidal behavior from interacting with pro-suicidal ideation posts.

Sexual exploitation and minor users

When social networks fail to enforce rules that protect minors, kids may be introduced to harmful content. This includes sexually explicit images, violence, or other disturbing content. This exposure can negatively impact their development or damage mental health.

Sexual predators may lurk in virtual spaces, preying on children. They may even send minors sexually explicit images. Their harmful actions can lead victims down a path filled with trauma.

As a result, some young ones may experience misplaced feelings of shame and guilt after seeing such content. Sadly, such painful emotions can lead to thoughts of suicide.

Potentially Fatal Social Media Challenges

TikTok has become one of the most popular social media platforms among children and teenagers. Despite growing popularity, it has its dangers.

One study reports, “TikTok users are often adolescents and therefore from a group of potentially vulnerable individuals.” Therefore, the prevalence of risky behaviors on the platform is worrisome.

One social media trend that has emerged on TikTok is dangerous challenges. These often involve risky and harmful behaviors with severe or fatal consequences.

Some impressionable children are eager to fit in with their peers. That desire may cause minors to join in these dangerous social media challenges.

The TikTok “fire” challenge

One popular challenge is the TikTok Fire Challenge. This alarming challenge involves individuals intentionally setting themselves on fire. Participants then record it for likes and shares.

Combining flammable substances and flames is ill-advised. Additionally, children may also neglect basic safety precautions in case things go wrong. The result of this may be severe injury or death.

TikTok’s “blackout” challenge

The Blackout Challenge involves intentionally depriving oneself of oxygen. 

For this challenge, participants intentionally choke themselves. They do so until the point of passing out for a few seconds. The outcome can be brain damage, injury, or death due to lack of oxygen.

The “skull breaker” challenge

Another alarming challenge is the Skull Breaker Challenge.

In this challenge, 3 people stand side by side while jumping into the air. Friends then kick the middle person’s legs. Doing so makes him or her fall backward and hit the ground head-first.

Viral trends on TikTok and other social media companies may appeal to kids as good fun. Yet, children may participate without fully understanding the potential risks.

Social Networks and Teenage Wrongful Death

The connection between social media use and teen suicide is a deeply concerning issue. Many studies highlight the negative impact of excessive social media on adolescent well-being. Some young people may even experience a loss of enjoyment of life.

Additionally, some teenage victims commit suicide after relentless bullying. Other young people cannot cope after viewing cruel or otherwise harmful content online. Sadly, some may choose to end their lives when experiencing these overwhelming emotions.

The following factors may lead to wrongful death related to social media.

Promotion of eating disorders on social media can be fatal

The rise of social media has brought about many challenges. One of these problems is its impact on body image issues and eating disorders. Teenage girls are particularly vulnerable to the harmful influences of social media.

Sometimes, individuals document their journey with an eating disorder. They may post about their condition on social media platforms, presenting it in a positive way.

Young people exposed to disordered eating may experiment with dangerous eating behaviors. These can include extreme dieting or purging. In some cases, suicide or fatal health complications are the tragic result.

Inadequate moderation and cyberbullying

The lack of adequate age restrictions can contribute to the problem. Many social media companies claim to set age limits for social media accounts. Yet, they may fail to enforce those restrictions effectively.

Additionally, the lack of comment section moderation can expose teenagers to online bullies. 

Cyberbullying can be relentless and emotionally painful. Such online harassment can cause teenage victims to experience intense negative emotions. Sadly, some teenagers feel pressured to take their own life in an attempt to end their pain.

Social Media and Adult Wrongful Death

The role of social media in contributing to adult suicide cannot be ignored.

Some online communities openly promote content related to self-harm and suicide. One study reported, “Pro-suicide websites and videos are easily accessible…and they include sites encouraging, promoting, facilitating, or displaying suicide.” 

“There has been concern that frequent social media use and exposure to suicidal content in media can glorify and normalize suicide,” reports another study. Sadly, websites encouraging suicide may influence emotionally unwell individuals to end their lives.

Internet threats targeting women

Internet harassment targeting women has become a pervasive issue.

This harassment can affect the mental and physical well-being of women. It creates an online environment where women may feel unsafe and intimidated. Some even receive death threats. 

Due to this, some women choose to take their own lives out of fear or hopelessness.

Vulnerable women may be subjected to sexual harassment or stalking. This happens because sexual predators often use social networks as hunting grounds. They target unsuspecting victims and manipulate them into dangerous situations.

Victims of online sexual exploitation may suffer intense mental distress. This emotional pain can lead victims to commit suicide.

Live streaming suicide on social platforms

Suicide live-streams are disturbing and tragic incidents. In these, victims choose to broadcast their suicide to viewers around the world. Shockingly, in certain instances, viewers were “encouraging of the suicide.” 

Now, discussions are arising about the responsibility of tech companies for the content that is posted on their platforms. Sadly, for vulnerable users who have committed suicide, this discussion comes too late.

In response to these heartbreaking incidents, some families have taken legal action. They have filed wrongful death lawsuits for allowing the suicide broadcasts.

Social Media Addiction and Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Social media addiction can affect individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Studies show that too much screen time can lead to suicide. One study reports, “Social media companies commonly design their platforms in a way that renders them addictive.”

These platforms are addictive in nature. Both children and adults may suffer poor mental health and physical harm from social media addiction.

One heartbreaking case of social media addiction is the tragic story of CJ Dawley. CJ was a young teenager who became obsessed with his online presence. This addiction took a toll on his mental health. Eventually, he developed severe depression and thoughts of self-harm.

CJ’s parents were unaware of the extent of his struggles until it was too late. They discovered disturbing messages expressing hopelessness and thoughts of suicide. 

Sadly, they were unable to save their son. Now, CJ’s family believes that certain social media platforms should be held liable.

When social networks fail to protect vulnerable users like CJ, important questions arise. What level of responsibility do social media companies have in preventing such tragedies? Who can be held liable for a social media-related wrongful death?

Liability in a Social Media Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Tech companies have the duty to protect minors and other vulnerable users. Families of social media victims may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit when this duty is neglected.

Some families have filed wrongful death lawsuits against:

  • Social media companies
  • Schools that failed to address incidents of online bullying adequately
  • Individual perpetrators such as cyberbullies or influencers
  • Individuals who encouraged the victim to harm themselves
  • Individuals who did not notify the proper authorities
  • Other liable parties

No lawsuit can ever truly compensate for the loss suffered by grieving families. Yet, it is wise to discuss the details of your case with a knowledgeable lawyer.

In some cases, active litigation against various social media giants is underway. Many families of victims seek to hold tech platforms and parent companies responsible. They want social media companies to answer for failing to protect vulnerable users.

The Importance of Seeking Legal Advice in the Age of Social Media

Navigating the legal landscape of wrongful death cases can be difficult. It is even more complex when social media is involved. A wrongful death lawyer with experience in social media-related cases can be a great help.

Here are a few reasons why you will benefit from retaining a lawyer:

  • Experience with digital evidence: The right lawyer will know how to gather relevant digital evidence.
  • Understanding relevant laws: Laws regarding social media are constantly evolving. The right attorney will stay updated with these laws to protect your rights.
  • Determining causation: A direct link must be proved between social media and an individual’s death. This applies even if a victim chooses to engage in risky behaviors leading to their demise.

Often, issues surrounding user agreements and terms of service arise during these lawsuits. Are these agreements sufficient to protect children and vulnerable users from harm? Do they clearly explain to parents the risks of using these social media products?

When dealing with such sensitive matters, you should seek advice from experienced attorneys.

Let Us Help You Seek Justice for Your Loved Ones

At Hoffspiegel Law, we understand the pain that comes with losing a loved one in a wrongful death incident involving social media.

Our mission is simple: we strive to protect the rights of victims and their families. We seek compensation for the families of those who have lost their lives in social media-related deaths.

Has your loved one become a victim of social media or other forms of online misconduct? Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Our attorneys can help you file a wrongful death claim to hold the responsible parties accountable.

We are here to help you seek justice. When you trust our law firm with your case, we will work tirelessly on your family’s behalf. Contact us at (404) 760-8600 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.