Got a Personal Injury Claim? Think Before You Post on Social Media
If you have been injured in an accident due to someone else’s actions, you are acutely aware of the injuries — both physical and psychological — that you incurred. In a perfect world, your word would be enough to ensure that you are adequately compensated for those injuries, but we all know that we don’t live in a perfect world. And when you are in a battle with insurance companies and other responsible parties who don’t want to compensate you, everything that you say and do can — and probably will — be used as evidence in the case.
That includes what you post on social media. In an increasing number of personal injury cases, defendants are using evidence collected on plaintiff social media accounts to suggest that the claimant is exaggerating his or her injuries, lying about the injuries, or withholding additional information that could affect the outcome of the case.
In some cases, these discoveries do uncover fraudulent claims: There have been documented cases in which plaintiffs in personal injury cases have been caught posting photos of themselves engaged in activities that are inconsistent with their injuries that led to a denial of the claim. Even though social media doesn’t tell the whole story, it can still negatively affect the outcome of the case. For that reason, the Fort Worth personal injury lawyers at Stephens, Anderson & Cummings caution against using social media.
How Defendants Use Social Media
Imagine you have to spend months at home recuperating after an accident. Your injury prevents you from going to work and enjoying your favorite hobbies, and has left you depressed and isolated, only able to occasionally spend time with friends and family. Your personal injury claim includes damages for mental anguish—but the defendant produces images from Facebook showing you spending time with friends and family, and even smiling. Their response? Clearly you aren’t as depressed as you claim, since you appear happy in the photos.
Thankfully, many judges are beginning to realize that social media postings rarely tell the whole story about a person’s life. Most people present a very specific, edited version of their lives online, and smiling in a single photograph with a beloved family member doesn’t mean that someone isn’t depressed or dealing with significant mental or physical anguish. A photo of one event or activity doesn’t reveal how many invitations were turned down, or the struggles one had to be a part of that experience.
That being said, judges are looking at social media as part of the overall package of evidence, and if you’re claiming isolation and inability to do anything, a collection of photos showing your active social life or regular physical activity will contradict that claim. Even worse? Social postings that directly contradict your claims, i.e., your injuries prevented you from attending any family events for a year, yet there are photos of you at weddings, holidays, etc. These are the posts that investigators are looking for — and that will destroy your chances of receiving compensation.
Managing Your Social Media
Most attorneys advise clients in personal injury cases to avoid using social media at all for the duration of their case. This means deactivating your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, at least temporarily, until a decision has been reached. The defense team will likely be investigating every aspect of your life, and will try to frame any of your activities as contrary to your claim.
If you aren’t willing to give up social media, it’s vital that you take every precaution to avoid any of your posts being misconstrued. These include:
- Setting your privacy to the highest levels; i.e., only your friends can see what you post. Do not allow anything to be viewed publicly.
- Carefully screening all friend and follower requests. Don’t accept requests from strangers, or anyone who claims to be a “friend of a friend.” They could be an investigator, looking for damaging information.
- Not allowing anyone else to post to your social media accounts; i.e., tagging you in photos, etc. Adjust your settings so that you have the option of approving any “tags” or posts, and control who sees what is posted to your page. Ask friends and family not to post any photos of you to social media.
- Never posting new photos of yourself, regardless of the setting or how you appear in them.
- Never talking about your accident, claim, or anything related to your case on social media.
Social media is an important part of our lives, but when you are involved in a personal injury claim, it can be detrimental. Talk with your attorney and follow his or her advice, or risk losing thousands of dollars.