There is a plethora of information, among other things, on the world wide web, including the popular and ever growing phenomenon of social media, such as, to name a few, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google.
According to a 2014 survey by Pew Research Center, 74% of adults frequently use social media websites. Presumably, everyone who posts on social media knows their posts are public, which means anyone can see it, those who you want to share it with, as well as those who you would rather not see your posts. This also includes anything others post about you. With today’s technology and access to the internet, it is easier than ever to find information on someone, whether you personally know them or not. While private messages can only be accessed with consent or a search warrant, everything else is out there for the taking.
Can Social Media Impact Your Personal Injury Claim
When you pursue a personal injury claim, you are doing so because you have suffered physical injuries as a result of someone’s negligence. Whether it’s a broken bone, concussion, soft tissue injury, traumatic brain injury, medical misdiagnosis, failure to properly treat a medical condition, etc., you are seeking compensation for your damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and any other expenses associated with your injury.
Your injuries and economic damages will need to be proven and witnesses may be called upon to substantiate your claim. This is typically done through testimony of medical experts, family and friends, as well as any other witnesses who can testify as to your injuries and the impact those injuries have on you.
Conversely, the job of a defendant, or his/her defense attorney, is to try to disprove your claims. The defense will use evidence to prove your injuries are not as serious as you claim through the testimony of defense experts, family and friends, and your social media profile(s). This can be one of the best, and detrimental, sources of evidence against you. The defense can also request social networking activity in their discovery requests. The information gleaned from your social network profile may be used to discredit you.
Here is a fictional, but classic, example of how social media can impact your case: Jane was a competitive runner who regularly ran marathons prior to sustaining injuries as a result of an automobile crash. As part of her claim against the defendant driver, Jane stated she could no longer participate in running competitions because of permanent injuries to her leg. She claimed she had reached her maximum point of recovery, so she was as good as she was going to get. The defense attorney entered her name in a search engine, and lo and behold, Jane’s name and picture came up in a social media search which revealed the racing results for a local running festival. While Jane did not herself post anything on social media, the running festival was well documented on social media. The post contradicted Jane’s claims, and in this scenario it will undoubtedly have a negative impact on her case.
Posting pictures or comments of recent trips, social outings, partying, or the like can negatively impact your case. The physical, emotional, and mental injuries you may be claiming may be appear to be exaggerated—or all together fabricated—and will show that the injuries do not interfere with your activities of daily living.
A social media posting showing your participation at a family event in which you may be sitting at a table holding a glass of wine and laughing can easily be misinterpreted. The image does not show the struggle you had to go through just to get to that family function, or the tears you may have shed trying to get through the pain of simply getting dressed for the event. If a defendant can misinterpret your level of recovery, so can a jury of your peers.
Best Practices for Social Media
Rule 1: Stop posting on Social media.
Use the Privacy Settings on ALL of your social media accounts. In addition to setting your accounts to the private setting, you can activate the “tag review” feature on Facebook. This will enable you to reject or approve “tags” that other users may attach to your post. However, if your case is in litigation the defense is able to request and see everything you have posted - privacy settings are irrelevant. See Rule 1.
DO NOT post about your case or your discussions with your attorney. These posts can provide otherwise confidential information to the defense or anyone working on behalf of the defendants. You may also jeopardize attorney-client privilege.
Never discuss your case on social media. NOT even to let friends and family know you are okay after your accident.
Download all account information. Facebook, email accounts, and other social media sites allow you to download and print all historical activity for your records. This can be very useful if the defendant purports to have evidence that could harm your case.
Exercise caution when posting other social media content. Messages, videos, or other postings can hurt you even if the content does not deal directly with your case. Yes, the picture of you dancing with a lamp shade on your head can come back to haunt you.
Don't post any pictures. Also, ask your friends not to post anything of you. If they have ask the poster to remove you from their social media posting.
Never accept Facebook friend requests from strangers. They could easily be someone working on behalf of the defendant searching for evidence.
There is an old American idiom…Loose lips sink ships. It means “beware of unguarded talk.” The phrase was originally used in British propaganda during WW II to illustrate that gossip can easily and quickly spread to enemy ears, regardless of whether or not that was the original intent. If you have a personal injury case you wish to discuss, please call us at (704) 714-1450. You will speak directly to an attorney who can assist you.