How Can Social Media Impact Your Personal Injury Claim?
Being involved in an accident can be daunting. You’re likely wondering how you’ll pay for your medical expenses, how you’ll be compensated for lost wages, and what recourse there is to recover money from the parties responsible. We understand the challenges of being the victim of an act of negligence, and we also understand that support is essential to the healing process.
In these days of mobile technology and social media, it can seem like second nature to pull out our phones and tell our social media networks all about what happens in our lives. But if you’ve been a victim of an accident and are pursuing a personal injury claim, think before your post. Here’s why:
Everything You Post Can Be Used Against You
The courts have long recognized the power of social media – in fact, they often consider it a source of “unrivaled evidence.” What we say in the cyber sphere never really goes away, even after we delete a post. Today, social media posts are commonly entered as evidence – and more often than not, they hurt a case rather than help it.
Here’s an example: Say you were injured in a car accident and suffered whiplash. If you post pictures on social media enjoying everyday activities without a brace, a jury might think you were lying. With one post, you destroyed your own legal credibility.
This is an obvious example, but personal injury plaintiffs don’t often exaggerate the extent of their injuries. A much more common situation is when posting to social media affects the amount you recover for mental anguish or emotional damages.
Consider the case of Romano v. Steelcase, a Suffolk County Supreme Court case in which an office worker filed a product liability lawsuit when her chair collapsed. In her complaint, she said her injuries kept her from leaving her home and socializing with friends, leading to considerable emotional anguish. In response, the defense showed pictures of her smiling outside her home, making note of the number of people on her friends list and even the amount of smiley emoticons accompanying her posts. They used her social media accounts to show the jury that the extent of her mental anguish may not have been as severe as she claimed.
Why Putting Your Best Face Forward Can Backfire
It’s not hard to twist evidence like this to refute subjective claims like mental anguish or emotional damages. And in the social media sphere, it’s even easier. People regularly screen their photos and posts to make them seem as socially desirable as possible. People don’t post pictures of themselves embarrassed or sad or lonely – even if that’s how they feel.
Some people erroneously assume that social media accounts fall under the protective umbrella of personal privacy, but this simply isn’t true. According to the courts, your social media activity is a matter of public record and subject to scrutiny, even if you only share your content with a select group of friends.
Don’ts of Social Media Posting
What, then, can you post during a personal injury claim? Do you need to shut down your accounts for good? Not necessarily. Talk to your attorney about what is and isn’t safe to post. In general, he or she will advise the following:
- Don’t post about the case.
- Avoid talking about your injury or medical diagnosis.
- Don’t refer to any conversations with your attorney or phone calls with your insurance company.
Avoid posting regularly and be careful of who you share your content with, especially if you receive friend requests from people you don’t recognize. Remember, everything you post may be used against you in court – even something as innocuous as an emoticon.