Social media is an integral part of American life. Social networking and photo sharing platforms are so common that most people don’t think twice about “checking in” to a location or posting daily updates. For accident victims working with a personal injury lawyer, however, social media poses great risks.
Minimizing those risks is hard, given the widespread and frequent use of social media. The Pew Research Center studies social media use and reports that over 70% of Americans use social media platforms. People of all ages, genders, races, ethnic groups, incomes, and education use social media. And they use it often. For example, approximately 75% of Facebook users visit Facebook at least daily. At least 67% of Americans obtain some of their news through social media.
The personal injury lawyers at Reiner, Slaughter, McCartney, & Frankel suggest that clients avoid social media until injury claims are resolved. Several potential problems can arise if accident victims use social media while their case is pending.
Lawyers in a personal injury case can obtain anything a person publicly posts on the internet. This includes information shared by the parties and by other people. Many photos and posts contain geolocation data, revealing a great deal of information about a person’s daily activities. This information can help or hurt a case.
If you have been hurt in an accident, insurance company representatives will look for evidence that your pain and anguish are not as severe as you portray. Social media is a great way to find out how you spend your days. Investigators will look at your social media feeds including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare. They will look for any posts, photos or videos that mention or tag you. They will comb through your friends’ and followers’ social media platforms for anything they can find about you. Comments that people make on your public pages or in response to a tweet or post are also informative.
Insurance companies want to know:
The insurance defense lawyers will try to minimize your insurance payout by showing that your injuries aren’t as bad as you claim. They will look for evidence to support their story that you are exaggerating your injuries. If you post anything on social media that others could interpret as contradicting your claims, they will use it against you.
Many accident victims experience emotional distress and pain and suffering because of the accident’s negative impact on everyday life. For example, anxiety following an auto accident may prevent a mother from driving children to activities. Depression following a car wreck may prevent a person from engaging in hobbies or going out with family or friends.
The following examples illustrate how social media can complicate your personal injury case.
When social media activity raises doubts about your claims or your honesty, the insurance company will seek additional information to verify the suspicions. This might include asking the court to grant access to your social media accounts. Courts have found that a party’s social media information, including information generally considered private, can be revealed to the other party in some situations.
Broadly speaking, anything you share with your attorney about your case is considered confidential. To keep it confidential, you, as the client, cannot share that information with other people. This means you can’t tell your best friend your lawyer’s advice about the case and you can’t bring someone else to meetings with your lawyer. An experienced personal injury lawyer will explain any exceptions to these general rules.
You also cannot share information through social media. That counts as telling someone else your confidential information. “Sharing” includes:
If you share your confidential information with anyone but your lawyer, that information is no longer confidential. That means the other party in the lawsuit can find out about it and use it to their advantage.
Given the prevalence of social media in everything we do, it is understandable that it affects personal injury lawsuits. Accident victims often do not know how their regular social media activity can hurt their claims. Reiner, Slaughter, McCartney, & Frankel’s experienced personal injury lawyers in Redding, California, help clients understand the impact of social media on a case.
Every situation is different, but accident victims can take the following preventative actions. The most important thing you can do is consult with your attorney about your social media accounts.
If you have been hurt in an accident, Reiner, Slaughter, McCartney, & Frankel offer a free, individualized case consultation. Call 800-355-256 today or use the convenient online form to discuss your situation. We are available 24/7 and you are under no obligation after your call.