Even before the Internet, a “fish story” was a common euphemism for a huge lie. Now, the tradition continues in the form of catfishing, which is arguably more malicious than the biggest fish tale.
The anonymity of the Internet has allowed dishonest individuals to pretend to be someone else online in order to:
- Pursue a relationship that would normally be unavailable to them
- Cyberbully a peer
- Extract money from an unwitting victim
Catfishing has affected people of all backgrounds, from vulnerable teenagers to celebrities and professional athletes like Manti Te’o, who made headlines when the news broke that his online girlfriend, who had supposedly died of leukemia, had been someone playing a trick on him. For victims, the outcome has been emotional devastation, financial loss and, in the case of a UK teen, suicide.
Can you sue for a personal injury?
New York is one of a dozen or so states that have laws against impersonating someone online. A person can be found guilty of Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree when, among other things, they use the web or electronic messaging to impersonate someone for personal gain or in order to defraud or injure another person. It is a Class A misdemeanor that can send a convicted defendant to jail for a year or subject them to a significant fine.
What about the victims? Can they sue if an act of catfishing causes them an injury that’s not financial in scope? An injury that harms them emotionally and prevents them from enjoying life?
In New York, you can file a personal injury claim against someone who intentionally inflicts emotional distress on you. Unlike broken bones or a traumatic brain injury, emotional injuries are difficult to quantify because they cannot be seen and objectively assessed as easily, so it is challenging but not impossible to obtain damages.
In general, you must prove the following:
- The person who catfished you indulged in outrageous and extreme conduct
- They intended to inflict severe emotional distress on you
- Their conduct caused your injury
- Severe emotional distress was the result
New York courts recognize two types of emotional distress: negligent, which results in a physical injury, and intentional, which does not require evidence of bodily harm. This makes cases of intentional infliction harder to prove, but working with an experienced New York personal injury attorney can make it easier to put a case together.
If you are ever a victim of a catfishing episode that leaves you emotionally devastated, talk to a personal injury attorney about what you went through and your losses. When you discover the identity of the catfish, an attorney can help you assemble the evidence necessary to make a claim.
If you were seriously injured in an accident, contact the law office of Jayson Lutzky, P.C. Mr. Lutzky is a Bronx, NY personal injury attorney with over 35 years of legal experience. You may be entitled to cash compensation for lost wages and medical bills related to the accident as well as compensation for pain and suffering, both past and future. Call 718-329-9500 to set up an appointment with Mr. Lutzky.