In a world where everyone has a phone camera at their fingertips, it has become commonplace to capture in picture or video incidents as they happen. The issue with this tendency mixed with a potential personal injury claim is that while documenting the scene of an accident can be prudent to help your case, posting pictures that could be detrimental on social media can be far more damaging. In addition, posting post-accident pictures or videos of you can undermine your claim, that the insurance company can use against you. The safest approach while you have a claim pending is to refrain from using social media or be very careful about how you use it.
It is most important not to provide evidence that refutes your claim. For instance, if you have an accident-related injury and you claim you have suffered and are unable to accomplish certain tasks, you should be mindful of what you put on social media. The quickest way for a defense attorney, insurance company and their investigators to build a case against you is to disprove your own claim with your own photos and videos. Your credibility will be damaged and likely undermine your possibility of receiving an award or one as high as you would like.
Eight Tips to Help:
1.First, simply think about stopping all social media until your claim is settled.
2.However, if you do not stop usage, think about what your claim is. Think about what you post and how it might work against you. Have you heard of the old saying, “If it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck”? In other words, if you are giving testimony to say one thing, do not give the appearance of another.
3.Do NOT post about your accident. While this may be tempting, do not do it. There is only risk involved in doing so. In addition, do not post about your injuries. If you want friends and family to know what happened to you, reach out directly without going through social media channels to do so.
4.Control your settings. You can designate this area of your accounts to show posts to friends, public, acquaintances. Decide what is appropriate and who you want to see it. Remember your entire account can be subpoenaed, so anything you post is subject to review. This can be devastating for a claim when the entire account of all posts can be obtained by subpoena during litigation.
5.Do not delete your profiles or social media posts. This can be seen as questionable by the opposing attorney, like you may have something to hide. A court calls this “spoliation of evidence.” When this occurs, the jury will be informed about the deletion that it is presumed that deleted evidence (social media) was not in your favor, which is construed against you.
6.Do not accept new friend requests or followers from anyone you do not know personally. Their intentions may be questionable.
7.If you remain active with social media, reduce the amount that you are posting. Taking a break from excessive posting will work in your favor.
8.Let your friends know you are involved in a claim and ask them not to tag you in their photos or be careful about comments, retweets or use of hashtags involving you.
How Social Media is Used in Discovery
Attorneys or insurance companies working an injury claim will conduct “discovery.” This is doing their research to prepare for their side of the legal argument. Their goal will be to find something to use against you. Some discovery is done outside of the court, while other is done by petition of the court. Social media will be one of the first places to look for discovery; therefore, be aware that you may be ordered by the court to produce content from your social media accounts or even reactivate a deactivated account. Because lawyers and their investigators will be building a case, they will try to build relationships between you, your friends’ accounts, history, photos, video, comments…essentially anything they can find. Some examples could include:
Use of alcohol, then posting a picture driving afterwards A series of pictures that build a certain stereotype of character that could work against you (such as constant partying, irresponsible behaviors) High risk activities that could suggest the injured as the cause of the accident Showing physical activity while claiming you are unable to do such things Claiming pain, suffering or loss of enjoyment of life due to injuries, yet showing images of the injured happy and healthy while doing daily activities or traveling At home projects underway that require physical exertion, while claiming disability, lost wages and inability to work.
While social media is a fun and easy way to stay connected, there are downsides, especially when you may have a possible personal injury case or one that is pending. At Friedman & Martin, we provide guidance to our clients throughout their case and are here to help. If you have a possible personal injury case, please reach out to us by calling 912-232-8500 or using our form here.