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How Social Media Affects Your Personal Injury Claim

Metzger Wickersham
How Social Media Affects Your Personal Injury Claim

Your social media apps are probably where you go when you want to chat or have fun with family and friends. It is easy to share a story, post a picture or video, and converse with others, even if they are not in your usual circles. But the draw of social media and its connectedness can actually be a bad thing if you have a pending personal injury claim.

Mind What You Post to Social Media

Parents are constantly telling their kids to be careful about what they post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other popular social media apps. But adults need to take their own advice, especially if they are in the middle of handling a personal injury claim or lawsuit. In the last decade or so, insurance companies have become big fans of social media apps because they can be a gold mine of evidence to use against claimants.

Imagine that you filed an injury claim and said that you could hardly get out of bed due to the extent of your debilitations. To try to lift your spirits, you go to a local restaurant with your family. While there, you are wheelchair-bound and in considerable discomfort with pangs of pain. No one in the eatery would say you were “doing your best” if they saw you. However, you are trying to make the most of the night, so you tag yourself at the restaurant on your Facebook in a quick post with no pictures. This is where the trouble can begin.

An insurance investigator might come across your post, see that you were very much out of bed, and argue that you have intentionally exaggerated the extent of your injuries. They will have solid ground to deny your claim or at least lower your compensation. Arguing against them to regain your legal footing will be difficult because they have evidence – a screenshot of your post if it was not deleted – and you only have your word.

Such types of posts are exactly what insurance companies want to find. They will crawl through your social media accounts shortly after you file a claim to look for anything that might contradict your statements and give them a chance to deny your claim.

No Privacy in the Social Media Age

You might be thinking that you have your social media pages marked as Private, so only close friends and family can see what you post. Under that logic, the posts you make should be confidential, right? Unfortunately, wrong.

Across several notable cases, courts have consistently ruled that your posts to social media apps are not confidential. Essentially, all social media posts belong to the public sphere and can be used or investigated as needed without any additional legal intervention. Even if you switch your account or profile to private, this does not add any protections or privacies as far as a court will be concerned.

The logic behind these rulings is that posts cannot be considered private as long as someone other than the original poster can access it at-will. Your account might be private, but your friends on Facebook can still come to see what you are posting whenever they want – and they can even share what you posted to others with one click.

There is one caveat, though: Private posts can only be retrieved through evidence discovery if there is good reason to believe they could be relevant to litigation. In other words, your locked and private posts cannot be forced open to an investigator on a whim. First, the investigator would need to give the court a reason to suspect that there could be a useful post somewhere in your social media, such as if they saw someone who looked like you in a picture on your friend’s boating trip post when you have reported injuries that would preclude you from such an activity.

Close Social Media Accounts for a While

The safest thing you can do while you have a pending personal injury claim is to just stay off social media entirely. Uninstall the apps on your smartphone if that helps. Or password protect all your accounts but keep that password away from yourself by entrusting it to a close friend. They can change your password, write it down somewhere secure, and only tell you where it is written once your case concludes.

No random posts mean that there will be no random evidence the opposition could try to use against you. But just as you have to be careful about what you post, you also need to be careful about what you delete. Going through all of your social media profiles and deleting as much as possible will look suspicious, and the insurance company could try to say you tampered with evidence.

Again, the smartest choice might be staying away from social media entirely until your case ends.

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