Social media of all types have become a large part of our everyday life — for better or for worse. Status updates, tweets, and picture sharing with friends, family, and strangers across the world is commonplace, and sometimes we hit the Send button before even thinking twice about it.
If you have been injured in an accident and have decided to pursue a personal injury claim, social media can be your worst enemy. Posts, photos, and videos shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, or any other social network can have many unintended, negative consequences on your case.
You may be inclined to share the details of a big event such as an auto accident with your network, but a seemingly innocent post or picture could have a devastating effect on your case and your ability to recover compensation for injuries caused by another person. How does this happen?
Let’s say you’ve been involved in a trucking accident and you sustained a leg and back injury. You’ve decided to pursue a personal injury claim against the trucking company of the semi-truck that crashed into you on the highway. You claim that your injuries have prevented you from returning to your job since you can’t stand or walk without experiencing severe pain.
As a regular gym-goer prior to the trucking accident, you decide to see what you are capable of doing after the accident and post a status update to your friends and family while at the gym. Later that night, your friends invite you out for drinks downtown and you decide to go, with the festivities extensively documented on Instagram.
Even if your pain is legitimate and you are truly unable to work, posts and photos that seem to show the contrary can be detrimental to your injury claim. Insurance adjusters will use any evidence that appears to downplay your injury against you in settlement negotiations. This could result in a reduced settlement amount or no settlement amount at all. Their argument may be, “How injured can you possibly be if you are at the gym and out at the bars with your friends, having a good time?” Remember that it is their job to minimize your injuries and shift blame to you for the accident, and they will go to lengths to find evidence that refutes your claim, which includes scouring your social media accounts.
The above scenario can be avoided completely by following this overarching rule: When in doubt, do not post. Many personal injury cases are difficult enough to handle without providing the defense counsel additional ammunition in settlement negotiations. The safe route to take in the course of a personal injury case is to limit your social media presence until it is completely and fully resolved.
Every social media platform has a feature called privacy settings, in which users can limit who can see their profile, posts, and photos. Oftentimes, these settings are tucked away, difficult to access, and can change every few months. Many users are completely unaware that they exist in the first place. Beyond protecting the integrity of your personal injury claim, tightening your privacy settings can protect you from strangers who you don’t want poking around in your business in the first place.
An important thing to remember is even privately posted information on social networks may be used in a personal injury case. Do not simply rely on a tightly private, locked-down social media account.
When adjusting your privacy settings, be sure to disallow access to your content by people outside of your connections and do not allow your connections to share your content to their friends or family. After an accident or filing of a personal injury claim, avoid “friending” or adding additional connections, as these could be representatives from the insurance company or opposing counsel.
It may come to no surprise that the severity of your injury and the circumstances that led to the injury are cornerstones of a personal injury case. When you decide to make a social media post about your injury, you could inadvertently mischaracterize how serious the injury is and how long the injury could affect you.
Your personal injury attorney’s job is to accurately and consistently describe the extent of your injury, how the injury has had a negative impact on your daily routine (work, household tasks, recreational activities), and how the defendant’s actions caused the injury.
The description and cause of your injury that you provide to your friends and family on social media could be in direct conflict with story that your legal team is trying to present. Oftentimes expert witnesses will be called upon to give testimony on your behalf. The last thing you want to do is contradict the expert knowledge of the individuals that your legal team has specifically retained to help describe the extent and cause of your injury.
The defense counsel will attempt to use your own words (or photos) against you if it contradicts the narrative that your legal team has prescribed to. If your injury lawyer has claimed that you have suffered physical injuries and mental anguish from a car crash yet a photo of you dancing jovially with a beer in hand at a friend’s wedding a week after the accident surfaces on social media, your claim may be put in serious jeopardy.
To protect your personal injury case, follow these guidelines when it comes to social media use:
Your legal counsel’s job is to build a strong case and help you achieve the maximum amount of compensation possible for your injuries. There is rarely a situation where posting on social media can help your cause.
If you or a loved one have been hurt in an accident, call Thomas J. Henry. Our firm represents clients injured in auto accidents, large truck crashes, workplace accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, and more. We have experience handling complex cases and have a track record of achieving real results for our injured clients. Contact us today and speak with an attorney about your case. Attorneys are available 24/7, nights and weekends to evaluate your claim and provide you with a free case review.