The use of social media has become increasingly popular, with many adults currently active on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and others. While social media offers users a platform for exchanging ideas, experiences, and pictures, alarms have recently been raised over security, privacy, and legal concerns.
Given these concerns, people should exercise discretion when making comments or posting pictures online. This is especially true for anyone involved in a dispute or a civil lawsuit, such as a personal injury claim.
Personal Injury: 101
Each year, millions of individuals are injured in all types of accidents – medical malpractice, car accidents, construction accidents, slip, trip and falls, for example, or because of defective or dangerous products.
When such injuries are the result of the negligent, reckless, or malicious conduct of another person or entity, it may be possible to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
If the claim prevails, the injured person may be awarded compensation, including economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages cover financial losses such as lost wages, medical expenses, property damage, and other losses.
Noneconomic damages are designed to compensate victims for pain and suffering, permanent impairment, loss of enjoyment of life, and similar harm. If the responsible party’s conduct was unlawful or particularly egregious, such as driving under the influence, punitive damages may also be awarded.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the at-fault party’s misconduct, as well as to deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
Personal Injury Claims and Social Media Usage
Because insurance companies have vast resources at their disposal, reaching a fair settlement can be an uphill battle for an injured person. This is why it is crucial to enlist the services of an experienced personal injury attorney with the necessary skills and resources to conduct a detailed investigation.
This includes obtaining and reviewing any medical records and reports, police reports, identifying and interviewing witnesses, as well as relying on medical evidence and the testimony of experts, family members, and friends to validate your injury claim.
At the same time, the other party’s insurance company and/or attorneys will conduct their own investigation. Increasingly, the defense will review your social media sites in search of evidence that disproves your claim or the extent of your injuries.
If you are seriously injured in a car accident and are seeking damages for pain and suffering and loss of mobility, for example, an investigator may comb through your social media posts and pictures for indications that you were not injured that badly.
By posting comments about your injuries or limitations, or posting pictures showing you participating in a favorite sports activity or hobby despite being “injured,” you are handing the defense evidence that can be used against you.
Not only will your claim likely be denied by an insurer, a judge could also rely on such evidence to rule that you are not entitled to any compensation if the case goes to court.
Similarly, if you are seeking noneconomic damages for emotional distress or loss of enjoyment of life, comments, pictures and even seemingly innocuous posts showing you in good spirits can be used to reduce the other party’s liability.
Finally, privacy concerns notwithstanding, anything you post on social media, a personal blog, or elsewhere on the internet, is considered to be part of the public record that can be used as evidence against you in a personal injury claim.
This is true even if you mark your social media accounts private – courts routinely rule that even the contents of private social media accounts must be disclosed to the defense.
Because anything you post online may have a negative impact on your injury claim, it may be helpful to temporarily avoid using your social media accounts after an accident and until your case has concluded.
Additionally, don’t post anything about your accident, and ask your friends and family to refrain from doing so as well. Above all, hire an experienced personal injury attorney who can protect your interests and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
About the Author
Robert Marino became a lawyer because he wanted to give a voice to the voiceless. He does just that by focusing his practice on cases where people need help standing up to those who have injured them and he helps his clients protect their recoveries and benefits. His passion for the law extends to his role as an adjunct professor of law, where, for more than 15 years, he has been teaching future generations of lawyers. Rob’s practice areas include personal injury, labor law, trusts & estates, business law, medical malpractice, appellate law, and surrogate’s court.