Statistics indicate that about 72 percent of Americans use some form of social media. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms allow us to connect with our friends and share updates about our lives.
After being injured in an accident, it is understandable why you would want to share what happened with your family and friends on social media. However, if you might file a personal injury claim to recover compensation for your injuries, you should be cautious about what you post on social media.
Anything on social media could be used against you in court. Even seemingly innocent comments or pictures you post could end up having a negative impact on your legal claim. This article will discuss how social media can negatively affect your personal injury case faster than you might expect.
Are Social Media Posts Admissible as Evidence in Court?
Social media – pictures, videos, comments, replies to posts, and more – is increasingly being used as evidence in personal injury and other legal cases. For this reason, some people choose to refrain from using social media altogether until their personal injury claims are settled.
While social media content can potentially be presented in court, it must meet certain criteria to be used as evidence. Before social media can be submitted as evidence, the content must be validated and authenticated.
Any social media posts submitted as evidence must be relevant to the case. You have to demonstrate that the post has a direct impact on the personal injury claim.
Additionally, any social media evidence must be obtained legally. For example, the defendant and their lawyers cannot pay someone to hack into the plaintiff’s social media profile to look at their posts.
Social Media Can Be Used as Evidence Against You
If you are in the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit or considering filing one, you must take into consideration everyone who could potentially access your post. This could include the negligent party that caused your injuries and the defense attorneys representing them.
The other parties involved in the lawsuit and their legal representatives are going to be working fast to find any information to throw doubts on your credibility. They will search for evidence that downplays the severity of your injuries or the cause of your accident.
Personal injury lawyers have become skilled at finding and accessing defendant’s social media accounts – sometimes even when they are private. The lawyers and insurance companies involved may meticulously look through your social media posts, trying to find something that can be used against you.
Consider some of the following ways social media posts can impact your personal injury case.
You could contradict your own testimony
When filing a personal injury claim, you must be open and honest about the severity of your injuries. Insurance claims adjusters and lawyers look for inconsistencies that can be used to undermine your case.
Anything you post online appearing to contradict yourself could be used to cast doubt on the severity of your injury claim. For example, if you claim that you sustained a back injury in a slip-and-fall but then post a picture of you participating in a physical sport, the defendant could take fast action to challenge your injuries.
You may reveal your physical condition
Many people use social media to share exciting and fun activities they are taking part in. You must be careful that something you post does not give the other side information that could be used to downplay your claim.
For example, suppose you file a case because you injured your arm at work. You claim that your arm injury has prevented you from lifting objects and engaging in necessary daily tasks, but then you post a picture of you playing volleyball with your friends on the weekend.
This shows a discrepancy between your claims of being injured and your demonstrated abilities.
You are in friends and family posts
When filing a personal injury lawsuit, you need to be careful of more than what you yourself are posting on social media platforms. You also need to be aware of what your friends and family are posting about your and your personal injury case.
Unfortunately, the defendant and their lawyers could obtain access to posts made by your friends and family. If these posts show you engaging in activities that contradict your case, these posts could be used to devalue the claim.
Act fast before your friends and family post pictures with you in them. Ask them not to – and especially not tag you in posts – until your personal injury claim has been settled.
Your “check-ins” could weaken your claim
A “check-in” is a way of tagging social media posts to show where you are or where the content in the post was created. It allows you to show people you have visited a geographical location or event.
While sharing the locations you visit can seem harmless, it can have negative consequences if you have an ongoing social media case. “Checking in” at locations provides the other party with your whereabouts at a certain time and day.
For example, you claim that your accident and injury have caused you severe anxiety, emotional distress, and mental anguish. Yet, you consistently “check in” at clubs, concert venues, and other locations. This could make your claim seem exaggerated and hurt your chances at compensation.
You could unintentionally downplay your injuries
After making it through a serious accident, some people might be tempted to post something like, “I’m so grateful I’m okay!” Posting gratitude for only sustaining minor injuries, though, creates the impression that the accident did not cause much harm. It could appear that you are admitting that the accident and your injuries were not that serious.
While your claim is being processed, it is safer not to post or comment on topics related to your injuries and the accident. You could contradict what you told the insurance company and unintentionally make it seem that your injuries are not that severe.
Your comments on other people’s posts can be used as evidence
You not only need to be careful about what you post but also should be cautious about any comments you make on other social media users’ posts.
You are unable to control the privacy settings on someone’s social media account. This means that, if you are chatting with your friend on a social media platform about your car accident injuries, there is not much you can do to prevent him or her from spreading your news far and wide. If the social media settings are public, your conversation could end up in the hands of the opposing counsel.
Can I Just Make My Social Media Accounts Friends Only?
It is recommended that you make sure your social media privacy settings are set to “private” instead of “public” until your personal injury case is settled. Doing this may partially protect the opposing party and lawyers from obtaining access to any information.
However, even privacy settings will not be enough to keep you safely posting on social media during your personal injury case. Even having a non-public account does not mean that your information will remain confidential.
For example, even if your account is private, the court may request fast access to your social media accounts if the judge decides it could be relevant to the case. You may be required to show your social media activity during a certain time frame, so it is important to be mindful of anything you post after your personal injury accident.
Be Cautious of New Friend Requests
It may be wise to avoid accepting any new friend requests on social media while your personal injury claim is in progress. Although it is unethical, some insurance companies or the defense counsel may make a “friend request” or follow parties involved in a personal injury lawsuit.
You do not want the opposing side to gain access to your social media posts while your case is pending. It is best to avoid accepting any new friend requests during this time – even if the profile picture seems like someone you might know.
Types of Posts That Can Devalue Your Personal Injury Claim
There are various ways that social media can have a negative impact on your personal injury claim.
The following are examples of posts that can be especially damaging:
- Pictures or videos of you engaging in sports or other physical activities while suing for debilitating physical injuries
- Comments or posts about your day at work while filing for lost wages
- Posting confidential or personal details about your case or settlement offers
- “Checking in” at a gym or athletic center while claiming to be confined to a wheelchair or bed
Do Not Delete Posts From Your Social Media Account
What if you made a mistake and carelessly posted something on your social media account that could harm your personal injury case? Your first instinct may be to act fast to delete the post. However, doing so may not be in your best interests.
Before you get a chance to delete the social media post, an insurance adjuster or one of the defense lawyers may have already seen it and taken a screenshot. And once they notice the post is gone, they could claim that you attempted to destroy evidence because you are not as injured as you claim.
Don’t delete anything even if the defense team has already requested copies of your social media posts. Deleting your posts after they have been requested as evidence also could be considered to be “spoliation.”
Spoliation is the act of destroying or altering evidence relevant to a legal case. Destroying evidence can lead to your personal injury claim being dismissed and other penalties.
Get Fast Answers to Your Questions About Your Personal Injury Evidence and Social Media
If you have a question about whether social media evidence can be used in your personal injury case, the fast-working and experienced attorneys at Gould Injury Law are here to help. Our accident lawyers can review the facts of your case and advise you on what type of social media information could be requested by the other party and how to protect yourself from negative consequences.
While your claim is being processed, it is in your best interests to follow the advice of your personal injury lawyer about posting on social media. It is your attorney’s obligation to work fast to protect your best interests. Your attorney can offer you guidance tailored to your case about what not to post on social media.
If you do not have a personal injury lawyer and plan to file a claim, schedule a free consultation with Gould Injury Law today. We can guide you through each step of the financial recovery process. We pride ourselves on getting maximum compensation for our clients – and fast. Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 888-WIN-FAST to schedule a free case review.