As personal injury lawyers, we do our best to help guide our clients at every stage of the process when they are making a claim for damages. Each client’s case is different, so the guidance we give will vary based on the circumstances, but there is one thing we recommend without fail: if you have litigation or a settlement negotiation in the works, do not post on social media. Your interactions online can cost you your lawsuit.
What kinds of cases can be negatively affected by social media posts?
Any lawsuit could be affected by “evidence” found in a social media post. A personal injury lawsuit, a car crash or truck crash, workers’ compensation claim, and a wrongful death lawsuit could all face challenges based on social media posts.
The same is true for other types of lawsuits, even in areas where we do not specifically practice law. For example, there are countless examples of people facing criminal charges based on their social media posts, or getting in trouble during divorce or child custody proceedings.
What kinds of social media posts are bad for my case?
All of them. Statements, pictures, and videos can all be misconstrued and used against you. Specifically, avoid posting pictures, videos, or statements about:
- Any physical activity you have completed, including physical therapy, yard work, walking the dogs, picking up your child, or any other day-to-day activity.
- Any trips or vacations.
- Your physical or mental well-being regarding your case.
- How your case is progressing, the length of time it’s taking, or how much money you think you may receive.
- Your feelings about your medical providers and their treatment plans.
- Your feelings about your attorney, which may be exploited by opposing counsel.
- Potential settlement offers you have received.
In short, it is better to avoid posting ANYTHING about your life, your injury, your job, or your feelings regarding your claim, because the insurance company’s attorneys are looking for a way to “prove” you aren’t hurt.
For example, say you trip and fall over a broken piece of flooring in a grocery store and tear the ligaments in your shoulder, leaving you unable to work. You file a premises liability claim against the store for its failure to warn about the dangers of the floor. A few weeks later, you go to a barbeque and pose for a picture with some friends in the pool. You take off the sling you have been wearing in order to look “nice” in the photo.
The insurance company for the grocery store will take that picture and show that you are not wearing your sling, so therefore, your injuries have healed. Or, the lawyer may say that anyone with an injured shoulder should not be able to swim, and therefore would not go in a pool – thus, the picture proves you are not really injured, and your claim should be denied.
Can I post if my accounts are set to “private”?
Generally speaking, it is better if your accounts are set to private, anyway. But understand that a “private” setting doesn’t mean that information cannot be shared. Anything you post under any setting can be considered part of the public record, and it can (and will) be uncovered by during the discovery process of your claim.
Can’t I just delete my posts?
Maybe not. Both your attorney and the negligent party’s attorney will send out preservation letters – letters that request that both sides preserve specific types of evidence. If you are injured in a car accident, for example, the other driver’s insurance company may send you a letter of preservation regarding all of your social media postings. If you delete those posts, you could accused of “spoilation of evidence,” and sanctioned by the court.
What if my friends post about me? What can I do?
You should make it clear to your friends – and to anyone, really – that posting information about, or pictures of, you without your permission is not acceptable. You should also change your settings on your social media accounts so that you cannot be tagged in posts, and that you are notified if you are.
If a friend or coworker asks you about your injuries or your case, simply reply that you cannot discuss it. Even something as innocuous as “today was a good day” or “I’m feeling happy today” can be used against you by opposing counsel.
What else should I do to protect myself and my case?
If you cannot avoid social media, then at least consider removing the apps from your phone until your case is concluded. Social apps often track users’ movements based on the location of their phones, and that tracking data can be requested during the discovery process. It can be used to show you were on your phone when you get into a crash, or that you were in Place A when you claimed to be in Place B. Opposing counsel will use this data to cast doubt on the severity of your injuries and attempt to have your claim dismissed, and bar you from recovery.
You should also talk to your lawyer about your concerns and your needs. If, for example, you don’t think your doctor is listening to you, speak with your lawyer before you get a second opinion or switch doctors. Why? Because opposing counsel may try to say that even you think your doctor is wrong about the severity if your injuries.
We understand that being hurt is frustrating in and of itself, and that the process to get justice can be frightening. Our job is to help you as best as we can, and we are always here to help you and answer your questions. To learn more about our services, or to schedule a free consultation with a Huntsville personal injury attorney, please call Martin & Helms at 256.539.1990, or fill out our contact page. We maintain an additional office in Decatur, and proudly serve clients in Athens, Madison, and throughout North Alabama.