Social media is a revolutionary feat. It enables us to connect with people all over the world, access information in mere seconds, and share parts of our lives that would otherwise go largely unknown by most of the people we know. And it’s for these very same reasons that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok can actually be harmful to legal cases.
After you’ve filed a personal injury claim or lawsuit against another person, you will need to be extremely cautious with how you go about posting on your various social media accounts. Revealing the wrong information could have a negative impact on your case and the compensation you are seeking from the responsible party.
How the Defense Uses Social Media
No matter the type of accident you might have suffered, from car accidents to workers’ compensation situations, if you have a claim or lawsuit to file, it’s likely because you’ve suffered personal injuries that need to be treated. That means the first step before doing anything else in your case is receiving the medical attention you need, then heeding your doctor’s instructions for achieving the quickest and healthiest recovery.
If, for some reason, you decide to act against your doctor’s instructions, or the amount of damages you’re attempting to claim doesn’t seem to align with the types of treatments and procedures your doctor has given you, the defense (in this case, often the liable party’s insurance company), may claim that you aren’t in need of the damages you’re seeking. In other words, if they have reason to believe you don’t actually need the money you’re asking them for, they have a stronger case to build against giving it to you.
And insurance companies will often attempt to prove the above by excavating your social media accounts for any information they believe will potentially work in their favor. For example, some instances in which your social media can hurt your case may be if you are:
- Posting pictures of physical activities while suing for severe injuries.
- Checking in at gyms, recreational areas, or for physical fitness classes while claiming to be severely injured or immobile.
- Posting about working your job while claiming lost wages.
- Posting any confidential details about your case or settlement.
Everything you post, whether photos or words, can potentially contradict your personal injury claim and dimmish your rights to receive compensation for your injuries and other losses. Many insurance companies have teams of investigators they employ specifically in order to explore the social media accounts of those with claims against them. Then, they’ll put together their findings to include anything they think they can use as evidence to the contrary.
How to Protect Yourself on Social Media
Although it may be difficult to do, you should consider severely limiting or entirely refraining from using any of your social media accounts during the duration of your personal injury case. If for some reason you are unable to do so, there are additional steps you can take to try and protect yourself.
First and most importantly, be wary of what you decide to post on social media. Never mention anything about your case publicly or even privately on any platform. It would be best to refrain from posting anything about your injuries or your recovery process as well. Even if you might think the content you’re posting is innocent enough, insurance companies have been known to find ways to twist them around to their own advantage.
Next, make sure your privacy settings are enacted. Limit the number of people who can access your profiles and whatever content you post. For example, on Facebook and Instagram, you can achieve this by changing your settings from “public” to “private.” But remember that having a private profile doesn’t mean you should just go ahead and continue posting whatever you would like. It doesn’t always guarantee that your content will remain private.
To keep prying eyes off your content, also be wary of any new friends requests you receive during your ongoing lawsuit. Do not accept requests from anyone you don’t know personally, as they could be an attempt by the defense to gain access to your private account.
Also, do not delete anything from your social media accounts. Deletions of data can be traced, and just about anything that has been publicly posted to the internet is always retrievable in some form or fashion. If the defense believes you have something to hide after seeing you’ve made deletions, it will only prompt them to dig deeper. Deleting content could also be seen as an attempt to destroy potential evidence in your case.
The general goal is to make sure you aren’t posting anything that could be seen or used as a contradiction to your personal injury claims. The best and easiest way to achieve that is to not post any new content to your social media accounts at all.
The Legalities of Your Social Media Accounts
It’s important to know that a court of law can order your social media posts to be used as evidence—even if your settings are private. This also goes for content that you’ve removed or permanently deleted, and even full profiles that you’ve deleted or deactivated. A judge has the power to order that any such posts or content be retrieved for evidence if the defense provides a feasible reason for doing so.
The activity on other people’s social media accounts is also fair game in a court of law. Evidence won’t just be limited on your own social media. The defense may dredge up any activity you’ve taken part in elsewhere, like commenting on other people’s posts or photos. And if a friend or family member posts information about you on their own profiles that could be incriminating, the defense may use that to their advantage as well. So be sure to make it clear to any such family and friends that they need to refrain from including you in their social media in any way.
It’s also important to remember that during the process of your personal injury case, you will have given written and verbal statements about the accident and your injuries. If anything in your social media accounts at a later date seems to contradict the statements you’ve already given, it can also hurt your claims in court. Again, the best course of action is to just refrain from using social media as much as possible during this time.
Hiring the right personal injury lawyer means teaming up with someone who can advise you on the best way to legally go about your day-to-day life as you heal. Just as you heed medical instructions from your doctor, you would do well to take legal behavioral instructions from your attorney—and that includes their precautions about social media.
The right lawyer will not only know how to help protect you on social media, but also use it to your potential advantage. They can investigate and explore the negligent party’s own social media accounts if they attempt to blame you for partial fault in the accident. If there’s something they reveal to the contrary on their own social media, you want the right team on your side to catch it.
The Whisler Law Firm has been helping personal injury clients navigate the complexities of their cases for decades. Our knowledge of the law, how evidence is used, and how social media can play a role in that evidence is extensive—just like the lengths we go to when protecting our clients and fighting for their rights. Give our office a call at 833-529-5677 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation about your personal injury case.