From an influencer vying for preferential treatment at a restaurant, to the constant chorus of companies trolling for more Facebook likes, the effects of social media on business are everywhere. With 85% of all Americans logging on at least once a day and a third report being on ‘constantly’, it is easy to see why corporate America wants a slice. The ability to update your friends far and near with the stream-lined convenience of a fast-food drive through lane has proven remarkably popular. All this connectedness can create quite a cozy feeling. However, this record of your life, often with pictures and personal annotations, is a vast resource for businesses, and the defense teams in personal injury litigation were quick to get on board.
It really is nothing new. Insurance companies have long been known to use private investigators to tail the opposing party hoping to catch them in a compromising situation useful in reducing the amount they have to pay. Mining your online profile is easy and cost effective compared to hiring private investigators. Modern standard practice now includes researching the opposition on social media in all personal injury cases. There is a growing industry of social media research specialists catering to law firms who defend against personal injury, and they have one goal. They are searching for anything useful in undermining your claim or reducing your settlement.
Often people portray an idealized version of their lives on social media that does not tell the whole story. The defense will take pictures out of context and try and twist them to their own ends. Your picturesque selfie won’t show the struggles you endured to make the trip. The defense will use it to cast doubt on your pain and suffering numbers. Do not make the mistake of thinking they will play fair and just pay what they owe. You need to be extremely careful with social media posts while engaged in litigation and don’t give them anything they can use against you. Here is The Advocates’ list of top 10 social media mistakes if you have a personal injury claim.
#1. Assuming Privacy Settings are Really Private
Making your social media accounts private, if they are not already, is always a good move. However, do not rely on privacy settings to save the day. There are several ways clever investigators can get around privacy settings and the courts have ruled that posts on social media by their nature have zero expectation of privacy. Upon showing of compelling cause, you could potentially have to surrender your login information. Assume anything and everything you post will be available to opposing counsel.
#2. Posting About Your Injuries
While it may be uplifting for your friends and family to see you rehabbing with a big smile, avoid any pictures or posts relating to your injuries. The exact extent of your injuries and its impact on your life is a matter best kept between your attorney and your doctors during the duration of your case. Your attorney will be fighting them tooth and nail for every penny and they are digging for reasons to low-ball your settlement offer. Don’t give them any ammunition in that fight.
#3. Assuming Your Family and Friends Understand the Situation
Investigators will routinely try and get more information via your friends and family’s accounts. Take a few moments and let them know that they need to exclude you from any posts they make while you are engaged in a personal injury case. This includes pictures as well as references. Let them know the opposition may try and ‘friend-up’ those close to you to gain access to more information on you.
#4. Showing Off Physical Activities
This falls under the classic type of evidence insurance companies use to reduce claims. A single snapshot taken out of context can be quite misleading. Defense teams routinely turn evidence of this nature into fodder to cast doubt on the severity of your physical injuries. Avoid pictures of you doing any type of physical activities is the best policy. A picture is a worth a thousand words and could potentially cost you thousands of dollars.
#5. Posting Travel Pictures, Itineraries, or Check-ins
Traveling is a wonderful way to rejuvenate and recharge, even if you are still on the mend. Defense teams will try to use evidence of you on holiday to say your injuries are not as severe as you claim. You don’t even have to be in the picture either. A picture of your spouse or family members may lead the defense team to ask who took the photo and where.
#6. Making References to your Legal Case
It might be tempting to make some posts weaving your legal case into a Grisham like tale for your throng of followers. However, there is a reason you often hear the phrase “I can’t comment on an ongoing legal matter.” It’s just smart. While mundane comments about a pending legal matter might seem innocuous to you, it is impossible to tell how a defense team will try to use any statements. Remember, you can only hurt your case by making comments or posts about it.
#7. Accepting Friend Requests from Strangers
Nothing makes it easier for them to research you than if you grant a friend request. Most people enjoy growing their friend list and there is nothing wrong with that. During your case though it is important to review requests carefully and only grant those that you have a personal connection with.
#8. Scrubbing Past Posts
Knowingly disposing of evidence is a big no-no, and social media posts are no exception. As tempting as it is to try and remove anything not favorable heading into a case, the courts take a dim view on intentionally destroying any potential evidence. Discuss any specific concerns about your social media account and its impact on your case with your attorney. This brings up a good rule to consider not just during your case but towards social media in general.
#9. Hitting Publish Without Considering Legal Impact
We have all seen those posts that make us cringe. Leaving us to wonder if they paused for even a moment before hitting publish to consider things like future employers. The internet is replete with daily examples of social media posts gone awry leaving people in embarrassing positions, endangering their jobs, or worse. Take a moment before publishing any post to consider the potential impact on your case.
#10. Posting Party Photos
In some ways being a party to a lawsuit can be like a job interview, especially if the case goes to trial. People you have never met will make an assessment about whether you seem like a reasonable person. The jury or judge ask themselves if you are trustworthy and if they can take your words at face value. Avoid pictures or posts that cast you in an unflattering situation, even if you are of age and engaged in a legal activity. Defense teams often use this type of evidence to imply that it is your conduct inhibiting your employment prospects not your injuries.
Social media can be an invaluable tool in the modern world, and it is clear it has changed the landscape in ways we are only beginning to understand. It is important to recognize how social media can affect your personal injury case and take steps to protect yourself.
The Advocates are a renowned personal injury firm in Washington State specializing in helping clients recover their losses from injuries. If you have received a settlement offer you felt was low, the Advocates offer a free consultation to help you assess your legal options. Our expertise in negotiating settlements means you can rest easy knowing you will be getting the maximum amount for your case. We are not afraid to take your case to trial if needed to make the insurance companies pay their fair share. The Advocates are ready to jump in and fight for your rights!
Contact us today by calling our office at the number at the top of your screen or by chatting with us from our homepage. You deserve an Advocate!
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