Social Media and Your Personal Injury Claim
Almost everyone uses some form of social media. For some of us, it’s a secret indulgence that gives us a euphoric high – who needs exercise, shopping, or that glass of wine at the end of the day when 100 likes or 300 reposts will do it. For others, we have no pretenses about the message we are putting out to the world – here I am, look at me! We sometimes forget to filter ourselves on social media and post things that we would not normally say or do in public. While there are plenty of benefits to using social media, there are also downfalls too. As a personal injury attorney, the first thing I tell my clients is do not post anything on social media that you would not want to hear read back to you at a deposition! While your personal injury attorney should work hard to protect your privacy, sometimes it’s out of our hands.
If you are seeking compensation for an injury, it’s up to your attorney to utilize all available evidence to prove that you are, in fact, injured and the extent of those injuries. Just as your attorney is gathering this evidence, you better believe that the other side is doing the same thing. Insurance companies and defense attorneys will be scrutinizing anything that they can get their hands on and reframing it to downplay your injury. One way they often do this is through your social media posts. If your accounts are open to the public or somehow accessible to the other side, you can count on them seeing the posts you have put out to the world. Your attorney can try to prevent a jury from seeing these posts, but the fact of the matter is that most cases resolve without even having to file suit. The issue in those cases are that your attorney cannot undue what has already been done or in this case – what has already been seen. If on the other hand, your case is in litigation, then you also risk having to reveal even private posts in discovery regardless of any expectation of privacy that you may have had.
In my line of work I often hear insurance adjustors or opposing counsel attempt to reframe my client’s story. Most of the time it’s easy to rebut their position because it’s speculative. Why serve them the pictures to illustrate their fabricated story or the words to narrate it on a silver platter? Even seemingly innocent posts can be used against you! Take for example a hypothetical situation where someone has injured their neck in an automobile accident and is making a claim for their injuries. Now let’s say, this person decides to get away for a couple of days to get some in some rest and relaxation. Perhaps they find it difficult to walk or sit at a desk for extended periods of time but they are able to lie on the beach or soak in the ocean without any difficulty. And let’s say that as so many of us do, this person decides to post pictures of themselves doing these things and enjoying themselves with their loved ones. While their actions are not inconsistent with their injuries, the other side may attempt to use these photographs to create a new narrative. They can use the social media posts to argue that this person’s pain and suffering is not a reality.
Social media is the ultimate form of surveillance. Just put yourself in the other side’s shoes. If you wanted information about someone, where would you start? After a basic internet search, you would undoubtedly, turn to the major social media outlets. Poor social media decisions could jeopardize the value of your claim. Below are a few words of caution for those pursuing a personal injury claim:
- Be careful what you post. Posting anything online after an accident could be used against you. Treat your social media posts as they will be discovered!
- Be cognizant of who your friends are, who is following you and any new friend requests.
- Take advantage of all privacy settings offered and make sure those in your network do as well.
- Always consult with a skilled personal injury attorney.