Social media and social networking are a part of almost everyone’s life with hundreds of millions of Facebook and Twitter users and billions of YouTube video views. This is in addition to the massive number of Instagram, Pinterest and other social media platform users. That is why it is of no surprise that insurance companies and defense lawyers have learned to mine these sites for information.
These sites can be used to damage or even destroy a personal injury victim’s case with found information that helps them avoid paying injured people. That is why continued use of social media during personal injury case proceedings such as in the case of medical malpractice and auto accidents can ruin your personal injury case.
Social media evidence is almost always admissible as the platforms do not provide any legitimate expectations of privacy. Since social media sites provide day and time stamps for each posting or “status update,” they are custom made for evidentiary purposes. These often include what you do, how you feel and much more about your daily life that can become valuable information to defense attorneys and insurance companies.
Pictures of an injured person smiling or appearing to have fun as well as comments by friends about fun activities that involved the claimant can be used to create a false impression of the severity of the claimant’s injuries. Social media can present a distorted and incomplete view of the reality of the personal injury victim’s actual life experiences.
Photos and images that show an injured person engaging in physical activities can be misleading. Of course, everyone wants to put their best face forward despite their injuries. These images don’t show them when they are in pain or forced to sit out on these activities due to their injuries.
Ideally, anyone in the middle of a personal injury case should refrain from using social media all together during their case. If an accident victim does post photos or stories about their life, and they are pursuing a claim for injuries, there are a few precautions that personal injury claimants can take to protect themselves and their case.
The first precaution is to post as little as possible and refrain from posting photos or video. Never discuss your injuries, treatment, goals, plans or anything else associated with your case on social media. The second precaution is to delete any past posts that can be used to limit your claim such as a comment on an injury that happened before the accident in question. These comments can be used to inflict doubt on any claims that your injuries happened solely from the accident in question.
It is imperative that you always be honest and accurate when you post any information about yourself. For instance, dancing at a party or other physical activity may give the appearance that you have no injuries. The danger of posting such information is obvious. In such a situation, it is best not to misrepresent your level of involvement.
A good precaution is to check your privacy settings to ensure that only people that you specifically approve have access to your information or postings. Never accept friend requests or respond to emails from people that you do not know while your case is ongoing as they may be an insurance adjustor or defense investigator. Although these precautions will not completely eliminate access from outside sources, it does go a long way in protecting your information.
Lastly, as a claimant, you should take the time to Google yourself to be sure that any information that you find is not misleading or injurious to your claim. Since information from friends can be accessed by insurance companies via social media, ask them not to post anything about you such as photos or videos that can be misconstrued as showing you engaging in an activity that goes against your personal injury claim.
At Carpey Law, we insist that our clients be totally honest about their injuries and the cause of their pain. Accident victims must also be cautious to avoid anything that can be misconstrued and damage their case. Social media provides a daily window into your life. By being cautious, honest and accurate, you can ensure that it does not become the ruination of your personal injury case.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.