Personal Injury and Your Social Media Accounts
Could the things you post on your Facebook page be doing you more harm than good?
If you’ve suffered a personal injury of any kind, the answer could well be yes. Social media sites can serve as the ideal platform for sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings, and a little sympathy for your injuries might help to ease your pain. However, if the injury in question owes its existence to the carelessness, incompetence of malice of some person or entity other than yourself, you’re better off keeping the details to yourself.
The truth is that anything you post on social media can legally stand as evidence, and if you are pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, the most innocent remark typed into your smart phone could turn the tide against you.
How Social Media Can Damage Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
When you pursue a claim for personal injury, you are seeking two separate types of damages. These consist of:
- Financial relief for costs related to your injury. Every doctor and hospital visit is going to cost you money. The longer your therapy continues, so much the better for the medical field and so much the worse for you.
- Noneconomic damages for pain and suffering. They may not affect your wallet at the time, but if they stem directly from the accident in question, they do have a monetary value.
To back up your claims, your legal team will need to produce doctors, specialists, family members and others to testify to your suffering. Meanwhile, the legal team for the other side will be hunting down witnesses of its own. To discredit your testimony and nullify your claim, they will make every attempt to show that your injuries were far less severe than you claim. They will also try to prove that you were at least partially if not totally at fault for the accident that harmed you.
What the Defense Is Searching For
Have you tweeted that your car crash occurred as you rushed to get to work? Attorneys for the other side might twist that to imply that you were speeding. Similarly, if you’re claiming that your injuries have forced you to hang up your running shoes, don’t post pictures of your faultless form while sprinting to the finish during yesterday’s 5K.
The truth is that in mining for evidence to exonerate their client, the legal team will have no compunction about scouring through your posts and tweets in search of exactly that type of thing.
Social media can also deep-six your claims of pain and suffering. These rest on the premise that the damage you have suffered in the accident has left you unable to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. You might profess that your ability to live a normal life has ground to a halt due to such after-effects as:
- Panic attacks.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Limits on your physical ability.
Again, pictures of you out on the town with friends or posts discussing last weekend’s fabulous party will put the lie to your claim.
The problem can go far beyond the posts you make yourself. The things that friends share on your Facebook page can also give the impression that your life continues as before with no impediment whatsoever.
How Private Are Your Postings?
As certain political figures have learned to their dismay, most things that post on the internet are a matter of public record. Unless they have been flagged as “private,” all such postings can stand as evidence against you in a personal injury suit.
With private posts and messages, on the other hand, it’s a different story. Without a warrant or the personal consent of the person who put them out there, no one, friend or foe, can legally access these messages. Everything else, however, it theirs for the taking, and if you are claiming injury stemming from an accident, the defense team and the insurance company will not hesitate to type your name in a search box to dig up this evidence against you. Though people posing as someone who is attracted to you, someone who can help you, or as someone you know, may convince you to put your guard down, in turn, allowing access. They can also take screenshots once in.
Social Media Sites to Fear
Some social media sites are more dangerous than others. Facebook is one of them. Billions of people around the world use it to chronicle their daily goings-on. Insurance companies and defense lawyers know this and stand to benefit.
Other common gold mines include:
- Twitter. Any tweets about where you are and what you are doing at any point in time are bound to come back to haunt you.
- YouTube. If you’re claiming a physical injury, it’s best to avoid posting videos that show your athletic prowess.
- LinkedIn. It’s safe to assume that any attorney or insurer involved in your case is likely to be one of its members and privy to information posted by other insiders.
- Email. Does it go without saying? Anything you say in this type of missive could all too easily wind up behind enemy lines.
Other social media sites, while less likely to contain damaging information, are best left alone for the duration of your lawsuit.
How to Keep Your Personal Data Hidden
If you’re involved in a personal injury suit, you need to keep the things you’ve posted on social media from serving as ammunition for the defense. In addition to monitoring yourself, you also need to tell your friends to stop posting to your account or mentioning you on their own.
Of course, the best thing would be to deactivate all social media accounts or just stop using them entirely. If you don’t want to go that far, at least delete any posts that might harm your standing. Update your privacy settings to their highest possible levels. Mark everything else “private” and refrain from posting anything that could even remotely relate to your accident or its aftermath. Double check your “friends, followers, and stalkers” to make sure they are who they say they are. Be careful who you give access to.
It may seem hard to believe, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past when iPhones, Androids, PCs and social media were the stuff of science fiction. That’s when people with personal injury suits had one less thing to worry about.