Why Social Media and Plaintiff Claims Don’t Mix
People take to social media to share pretty much everything – the good, the bad, the ugly, and (what should be) the private.
If you are in the middle of a claim, you should not be airing the details about your accident or case for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting the defense counsel, claim adjusters, and others working against you to diminish or deny your claim altogether. What might seem like an innocuous social media post can quickly turn into something used to belittle your perspective and what happened to you.
Why You Should Avoid Social Media When You’re in the Middle of a Claim
Plaintiffs in the middle of litigating a claim have many reasons to be cautious, but here are a few of the biggest:
1. Your social media posts do not corroborate your claim.
Late last year, a reality television star who was in an automobile accident had his personal injury case thrown out of court completely. Why? He’d recently posted a picture of himself cliff diving on his social media while claiming to be in agonizing pain.
If you’ve suffered a personal injury and then post pictures of yourself doing an extreme activity – or even something the insurance company does not think you should be able to do given your accident – you are giving the claims adjuster evidence to use against you.
We know you’re seriously injured, but posting a picture of biking, hiking, climbing, or doing any other activity that could be deemed strenuous and contrary to your physical claims can and will be used against you.
If you’re claiming loss of quality of life, mental suffering, or similar, even innocent things like posing for a photo with friends can hurt your case. It’s hard to make the case that you’ve lost your quality of life when your social media is filled with girls’ nights out or pool days with friends.
This also applies to checking in to places you visit on social media. If you are claiming you suffered a broken arm in an accident, for example, you probably shouldn’t check in to your weekly yoga class. Posting about your location during your personal injury case can be used as evidence against you.
2. You post rants about your accident or injury.
Maybe you don’t post pictures of yourself, but you do post rants about how mad you are at the person who did this to you and about what you hope happens to the defendant. Emotionally-charged, vindictive rants will only work against the fair claim to compensation you’re seeking. If you make it look like you’re going after the person who did something to you instead of seeking fair retribution for the accident, it only arms defense attorneys with material to use against your otherwise fair claim.
3. You open your posts up to interpretation.
The less the defense knows about you, the better. They are only after what they can use against you. When you post a comment about your accident to social media – even something simple like showing relief that you didn’t invest money in maintaining your car because it’s now totaled – it can be wrongly interpreted as negligent. A certain amount of blame can then be assigned to you.
Here’s how: Maybe if you had gotten your brakes fixed or new tires put on, you would have been able to prevent the accident from happening. Granted it wasn’t your fault, but it could show a certain amount of contributory negligence.
Even comments from family and friends can add fuel to this fire. For example, if a family member posts a comment discussing the amount of money you hope to be awarded, this could damage your case and paint you in a negative light.
Thankfully, Georgia is not one of the four states (plus D.C.) that recognizes the Pure Contributory Negligence Rule, which essentially says a plaintiff cannot recoup damages if a certain amount of negligence can determine the plaintiff is at fault, even if that negligence is less than one percent.
How to Use Social Media While Navigating a Personal Injury Claim
While your personal injury case is processing, it’s best to stay off of social media altogether while you wait for your case to settle. If you need to be on social media for different reasons, or if you just can’t imagine staying disconnected for long, there are a few best practices to follow while your case is pending.
Update Your Privacy Settings
Don’t make it easy for the defense to find out information from your accounts. As discussed above, defense council can and will comb through your social media accounts to find any evidence they can to bolster their own case and shift blame to you. To avoid this, be sure to enable all privacy settings to the fullest extent.
Don’t Accept Friend or Follow Requests From People You Don’t Know
It is not unheard of for your opponents to try to get access to your social media by friending or following you, either from their own accounts or from dummy accounts. To avoid this, practice discretion on who you allow to friend or follow you online. Be sure to vet any friend or follow request thoroughly, and only accept requests from people you actually know.
Don’t Post Anything Related to Your Case
While your case is in litigation, it is crucial that you abstain from posting anything related to it online. This includes statements about the accident or your injuries, updates about your condition, discussion about your insurance company or your attorney, updates on the legal proceedings, photos of the accident and/or your injuries, and anything related. You never know what you might let slip that the defense could use against you to help cast doubt on your claim. It is best to avoid the issue entirely by refraining from posting anything at all about the incident.
Regularly Review Photos or Posts You Are Tagged In
Don’t forget to check in on the photos or posts that your friends and family tag you in! This is another way opposing counsel can gain information on your activities. It is best to ask your loved ones to refrain from tagging you in anything on social media, but you also need to check in on your tags frequently in case they forget.
Enlist the Help of an Experienced Attorney to Help You With Your Case
Having an experienced, qualified personal injury attorney in your corner is critical to help you get the settlement you need. If you are in need of a personal injury attorney, Gain can help you connect with reputable law firms so you can find someone that will fight for you.
For more information about how evidence from social media posts impacted the final settlement in a personal injury case, please refer to this summary of a 2015 case in Australia, compiled by The Personal Injury Lawyers.