SOCIAL MEDIA AND PERSONAL INJURY CASES
If you have been injured as the result of another’s negligence and are pursuing a personal injury claim, you have probably been made aware that the defendant’s insurance company will do everything they can to disprove your injuries and your claim. One of the most common ways that defendants and their insurance companies are doing this nowadays is by simply looking to social media sites. Many plaintiffs do not realize that the pictures, posts, and check-ins that they put on social media websites can give the insurance companies and their lawyers enough ammunition to disprove or significantly reduce compensation for your injuries.
WHAT INSURANCE COMPANIES ARE LOOKING FOR
When insurance companies are defending against your claim, they are essentially looking for any evidence that suggests your injuries are not real or that they are much less severe than you are claiming. If the insurance company is able to prove this, they will be able to get away with denying your claim or offering a settlement for much less than you are seeking or deserve. Insurance companies have investigators who are well-trained and efficient when it comes to gaining access to information posted on social media. They will go through your social media accounts and look for incriminating evidence that can be used to prove that your injuries are not as serious as you claim they are. This is all legal, and these posts and pictures are admissible as evidence because courts have held that there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” on social media, regardless of the personal privacy settings on your account. In fact, courts have even ordered plaintiffs to hand over their social media username and passwords to defense counsel!
Let’s use Facebook as an example. Facebook is the most popular social media site, with over 1.5 billion active users in 2016. People like to post pictures of themselves participating in certain activities, having fun, and traveling. It is used as a time-specific reference for what is going on in their lives. They “check-in” to specific locations online, often with other people, and other people check-in and tag them in photos, etc. So let’s say that you were injured in an auto collision that was not your fault, and you have a personal injury claim going. In your case, you are claiming that you have severe spinal injuries, have trouble walking and performing everyday activities, and that you have lost the ability to enjoy your life. This is a very common set of damages from an auto collision. If, during the course of your claim, you post pictures of yourself playing golf, or lifting weights at the gym, or even if one of your Facebook friends “tags” you doing some sort of physical activity, this can be detrimental to your case. Furthermore, even “posts” talking about your condition- physically, mentally, or emotionally- can also hurt your case. For instance, if you are claiming that your injuries have caused you to be unable to live your life as you did before the accident, and as a result have become depressed, anxious, etc., but then you write a post saying, for example: “I’m feeling great! It was wonderful to be able to play with my kids and get some housework done today.” This can be used by the defendant’s attorneys to disprove the injuries you are claiming, in this case, that you were not feeling depressed or anxious, and that you were able to enjoy time with your kids and participate in housework.
HOW DO I AVOID THESE MISTAKES?
The first thing that you will want to do if you are injured in any type of accident is consult an experienced personal injury attorney. If you have already found an attorney to represent you, talk to them about social media. The best and safest advice would be to stop all social media until your case has completely resolved, as difficult as this may seem. Ask your friends not to tag you in posts on their social media until your case has concluded. For over 30 years The Law Offices of Vann H. Slatter have helped those injured in auto collisions, slip-and-falls, and all types of personal injury situations. We can instruct you on how to best keep your private life private, and what to do with your social media accounts during your personal injury case. Call today for your free consultation at (310) 444-3010 or toll-free at (888) 293-0404.