According to Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans used some type of social media in 2021, compared to a meager 5% in 2005.
With so much of our lives exposed online, it’s no wonder defense attorneys and insurance adjusters routinely scour the internet for potentially damaging information for personal injury victims. Unfortunately, it takes just one ill-advised Facebook post to jeopardize your claim.
To maximize your chances of success, you must be very calculated with your online behavior from the date of your injury onward. Here are some essential dos and don’ts for using social media in personal injury cases:
Deactivate Your Social Media Accounts
Ideally, you should deactivate your social media accounts as soon as possible after the accident. That will make it harder — but not impossible — for opposing counsel and insurance adjusters to snoop around.
Note that the other side might still petition the court for an order to reactivate and produce information from your accounts. In some cases, judges will grant such petitions if they believe your accounts contain information relevant to your claim.
If you must maintain a social media presence for your job or to stay in touch with loved ones, at least set all your profiles to private.
Keep in mind that this strategy isn’t bulletproof, either. Private social media content is still part of the public record and can be used against you in an insurance claim or a lawsuit. Besides, anyone could have taken screenshots or downloaded your content before you had a chance to change the privacy settings.
Don’t Post Anything
Remember, anything you post online is forever and could come back to haunt you. Err on the side of caution and stop posting on social media from the date of the accident until your claim is resolved. This includes:
Be sure to also ask your friends and family to stop tagging you and remove any existing tags involving you.
However, don’t delete any accounts or extant content before speaking with your personal injury lawyer first. Courts might see deleting content as destruction of evidence. You could end up with sanctions or even lose your case.
Besides, social media servers might keep your data even after you delete it. Opposing counsel could use a court-ordered subpoena to retrieve that data, including information that isn’t on the public record.
If you are worried about potentially damaging content — for instance, pictures of you partying hard — show it to your attorney. They might be able to come up with a positive or at least neutral spin. For instance, your lawyer could argue that these pictures were from five years ago when you were in college and aren’t relevant to your recent accident.
Don’t Accept New Friend Requests
Insurance adjusters and defense attorneys sometimes create fake profiles in an attempt to gain access to your private posts. This practice is unethical and veering on the edge of illegal, but it’s not uncommon.
At the risk of coming across as bad-mannered, stop accepting friend requests from people you don’t know until your personal injury claim is resolved. That means you have either signed a settlement deal and have your check, or you have won your case in court and there is no appeal.
Why Is It Risky To Use Social Media in Personal Injury Cases?
Even a seemingly innocuous social media post can hurt your claim and even cost you your ability to recover compensation altogether. Here are some reasons why it’s a bad idea to use social media in personal injury cases:
It Can Cast Doubt on the Severity of Your Injuries
Pictures of you having fun with family and friends. Videos of mountain hikes. Status updates showing you traveled abroad. Opposing counsel and insurance adjusters can twist anything remotely fun to argue that you weren’t really in pain and are exaggerating your injuries. It doesn’t matter that you may have had to take a cocktail of painkillers to attend a loved one’s wedding.
It Can Cost You Your Compensation for Lost Wages
It’s never a good idea to post about going to work if you are seeking damages for lost wages due to your injury. Even if you are only claiming past damages and have returned to work after the accident, refrain from posting anything work related for the time being.
It Can Shift the Blame on You
California has a pure comparative negligence system. That means you can still recover compensation even if you were partially to blame for your injuries. However, your award will be reduced by your respective percentage of fault.
Make no mistake: Adjusters and lawyers will scour your social media profiles for evidence that you may have contributed to the accident. Even something as innocent as a Twitter post saying you felt sorry for the other driver — who was also injured after running a red light and crashing into your car — could be construed as an admission of fault.
It Can Make It Seem as If You Aren’t Serious About Your Treatment
If you post status updates showing you missed physical therapy or another appointment, the insurance company will likely argue that you contributed to your condition.
Likewise, the defendant could use any posts in which you complain about your doctor to argue that you should have gone to a different medical provider.
Using Social Media to Your Advantage in a Personal Injury Case
This road runs both ways. You may be able to use content from the at-fault party’s social media to strengthen your claim. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to check the defendant’s social media profiles for potentially damaging information and what to look for.
Were You Injured in an Accident in Orange County, CA?
At Khalil Law Group, our skilled attorneys can help you seek compensation for your injuries and avoid common mistakes such as using social media in personal injury cases. Call (714) 617-7870 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with a personal injury attorney in Orange County, CA.