If you have sustained an injury through no fault of your own such as car accident or from a defective product, and you’re seeking damages, demonstrating a physical injury is central to your case. However, posting about your potential case on social media accounts could be a detriment to that case. That information is in the public domain, and it may be used against you.
Turning to Social Media
More than three-quarters of Americans use some form of social media. If you’re part of the 23% that doesn’t have a social media account, don’t create one after an accident. Steer clear until your claim is resolved. But for the rest of you, social media is likely a regular part of your life. You use it to connect with family, friends, co-workers and even strangers. However, if you’re suffering from a physical injury and considering a legal claim, you should avoid posting about the injury on social media.
Social Media as Evidence
Opposing parties will use every opportunity to defeat your claim. This includes scouring your social media accounts for evidence to present in court. In fact, ABA Professional Conduct Rules compel lawyers to use technology to help their clients and courts are on board with social media evidence. For example, in a 2011 Pennsylvania personal injury claim, a plaintiff’s social media activity helped defeat her case. Counsel used Facebook photos in Largent v. Reed to counter the plaintiff’s claims of physical and mental pain. The judge then ordered the plaintiff to disclose her Facebook login details to allow further inspection of her account.
Restrictions Don’t Apply
Don’t assume that you can overcome legal problems associated with social media posts by changing the privacy settings on your account. If the other side has reason to believe you’re hiding pertinent evidence with that private setting, you may be forced to reveal all. That’s what happened in a recent New York personal injury suit. In Forman v. Henkin, an appeals court gave the defendant permission to access the plaintiff’s private Facebook account. The date of posted photos was in dispute – hinging on whether the plaintiff was playing basketball before or after his automobile accident.
Social Media Sites, Posts, and Activity to Avoid
Lying about your injuries or exaggerating how bad they are is ill-advised. Reputable, knowledgeable attorneys won’t take on these false claims. Being discovered on social media is the least of your concerns when you fake an injury. But even legitimate claims can suffer from careless social media use.
What you post can impact how a judge or jury views your injury claim. And the other side will take advantage of that. They don’t want you to look credible. They’ll use what they can to demonstrate that you’re lying about your injuries or overstating the extent of the pain you’re suffering from them. Keep that in mind when using social media.
Don’t Post Here
Any social media platform you use is subject to inspection. But these “Big 4” may offer more exposure when you post the wrong thing.
- Facebook – This is the biggest social media platform and attorneys know it. They’re likely to check there first for incriminating posts.
- Instagram – If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the damage dozens or hundreds of pictures can do your case. This platform is second only to Facebook in user engagement.
- YouTube – Consider offering the other side video evidence against you. That’s the danger you face when you upload personal YouTube videos.
- Twitter – Twitter doesn’t enjoy user numbers as high as the other platforms on this list. But it’s well-known and lawyers will check whether you have an account. Plus, the quick, short style of tweets and the feeling of anonymity can lead to comments you shouldn’t make during litigation.
Don’t Post This
Use common sense online. Steer clear of your accident, your claim, and your injuries. Here are some specific topics to avoid:
- Fault – Don’t talk about whose fault the accident was. And don’t speculate on whether you shoulder any of the blame.
- Blame – Perhaps you’re very certain that the other party is entirely at fault. Don’t engage in angry dialogue.
- Attorney-client conversations -- These are private. Keep them that way.
- Your injury – Don’t disclose any information about your medical diagnosis or care.
Don’t Do This
Social media accounts allow you to do more than simply post updates via text. Be careful of the following activities.
Your busy schedule may make you look like a happy, carefree person who couldn’t possibly be in the pain you describe. No matter what you’re putting on a brave front and powering through. Perception is key.
Post videos or photos of the accident
This is a common activity. People want to share, shock and engage. What better way than to post a visual of your accident? Fight the urge.
Allow your friends/family members to tag you in pics and posts
Change your settings to prevent this activity and tell your friends and family members to refrain from discussing your case online. This may prevent questionable photos and other evidence from surfacing.
Reply to posts about your case
People are nosey and social media encourages them to ask questions they usually wouldn’t pose face-to-face. Don’t take the bait.
Use messenger apps to discuss things you shouldn’t post
These conversations may also be viewed and used against you in court.
Delete previous posts
If you’ve already posted information that may be damaging, don’t delete it. Courts may see this as destruction of evidence, which could do more harm than the deleted posts.
Add new friends or followers you don’t know personally
Private investigators may use this method to learn more about you and your activities.
If you can’t stop yourself from using social media, do stop yourself from engaging in damaging social media activity. When in doubt, ask yourself, “do I want the defendant to see this? How will this look in front of a judge or jury?” Always err on the side of discretion.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, a New Jersey attorney skilled in personal injury and workers’ compensation claims can help you seek damages. Speak to your lawyer at the beginning of your case about social media. They can help you avoid costly missteps.