Can Social Media Undermine My Personal Injury Claim?
Back in 2015, we posted a blog about the role of discovery and how a plaintiff’s social media accounts can influence the outcome of a civil case. Social networking and microblogging services are constantly upgrading to meet the evolving needs of a demanding user base that is comprised of recreational users, consumers, business owners, and influencers. In fact, Social Media Today estimates that the average American spends at least 135 minutes a day interacting with their social media accounts.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp – these apps are more than just business tools and opportunities to connect with a digital world; we use social media to paint an online portrait of our lives, for better and worse. But this diary isn’t hidden under the bed – it’s available to the world.
Can I Post About the Accident on Twitter?
Posting on social media has become an addictive habit for many people. For this reason, we always advise our clients to avoid posting on social media after injurious accidents and events. The scope of discovery is very broad in Florida, and a plaintiff has limited rights to “privacy” for any written content and photos posted online. This policy even applies to private or deleted posts.
These popular platforms are fair game in a personal injury case:
Let’s examine a hypothetical but common scenario: A plaintiff is injured in a motor vehicle collision. They suffered whiplash, a painful back injury, and a devastating concussion. The plaintiff goes to the doctor, calls their insurer, and takes all the proper steps recommended by their attorney. But they can’t shake their feelings of anger and anxiety; their social life, career, and personal goals are now in jeopardy because one jerk was texting while driving (the at-fault party is contesting this claim, of course). The lawyer warned the plaintiff to stay off social media, but surely one post explaining what happened (with a little venting) can’t hurt. It’s the fastest way to notify friends and family members, after all.
But a habit is called a habit for a reason.
During the discovery process, the defendant’s attorney requests copies of the plaintiff’s social media posts. The court refuses the plaintiff’s writ of certiorari to cease the discovery orders, and now the defendant’s lawyer has pictures of the plaintiff engaging in activities with friends, going out to restaurants, and so on. Maybe there are even old posts joking about how the plaintiff is a “speed demon” on the road. Worse, perhaps friends have posted pictures showing the plaintiff out partying one night. Suddenly, the plaintiff’s claims regarding how the injuries have affected their quality of living are in question. The insurance company and defense attorney will then try to use these posts to reduce or eliminate the plaintiff’s right to damages.
Do I Have to Avoid Social Media Entirely?
Ideally, you should stay off social media for the duration of your personal injury case. A single Facebook or Instagram post can contradict your testimony, expose your physical capabilities, trace your location and activities, and ultimately render your evidence ineffective. But what happens if your case takes 2-3 years to settle? Expecting you to stay off social media in that scenario simply isn’t practical.
You need to be extremely careful about what content you and your loved ones post online. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect the validity of your claim. For example:
- Don’t post any information about your accident or injuries. Even a simple “Got in an accident, but I’m fine!” can be misconstrued by insurers.
- Google yourself and inform your lawyer about any accounts, links, or pages that can harm your case.
- Increase your privacy settings as soon as possible.
- Do not accept any friend requests or direct messages unless you personally know the individual. Claims adjusters and attorneys may “friend” you to access your posts.
- Warn friends and family members not to post pictures or comments about the accident on their accounts.
- Make sure no one posts pictures of you on vacation, enjoying activities, doing physical therapy, lifting heavy items, etc.
- Avoid participating in blogs, chats, and message boards.
- Don’t download or utilize apps associated with an insurance company.
- Don’t delete any posts that already exist on your accounts, no matter how questionable.
- Do not deactivate or suspend your social media accounts – it just makes you look guilty.
Have Questions? Protect Your Right to Compensation by Calling The Pittman Firm, P.A.
Several factors that can influence the outcome of a personal injury case. Before you make a costly mistake, contact the lawyers at The Pittman Firm, P.A. We can guide you through this challenging legal process and help you recover a settlement or verdict that safeguards your standard of living.
The Pittman Firm, P.A. represents cases throughout the United States. Contact our firm at (850) 764-0383 to schedule a free consultation today.