How Social Media Can Hurt Your Personal Injury Case
Social media might be a relatively harmless habit in your everyday life, but when you’re pursuing a personal injury claim, it can be more damaging to your case than you might think.
The same way insurance companies will hire an investigator to physically follow you around, they will also scour your social accounts to see if they can uncover anything that might cast doubt on your claim. We’re not just talking about a blatant gaffe such as posting pictures of a weekend golf trip while your attorney is litigating your personal injury claim for an injured back. Even the smallest, most obscure incident can become the source of extensive questioning.
Contradicting Your Injuries
When you file a personal injury claim, the insurance company and/or its lawyers will launch an investigation into your injuries before any settlement is offered. Even posting something as simple as going for a walk on the beach or grabbing a drink with friends—much less a strenuous activity such as running, hiking, swimming, etc.—can be used by the insurance company to challenge the seriousness of your injuries.
Undermining Your Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages, or “pain and suffering,” typically amount to a sizable portion of a personal injury claim. Non-economic damages are pivotal because they include your physical pain, mental suffering, and emotional distress (depression, anxiety, grief, etc.).
Unfortunately, virtually anything you upload can damage the validity of your non-economic hardships. For example, a photo of your champagne birthday toast at a fancy restaurant might raise questions about the anxiety or depression you claim to be coping with.
We recently represented a client who took a short flight to visit her family for a week. When the defense attorney discovered she had gone on vacation, a barrage of questions followed, including whether she asked for special accommodations on the plane, what type of bed she slept in, and other over-the-top insinuations aimed at diminishing the validity of her claim.
Half of social media is reactive—you instantly respond to friends’ messages and comments, usually with minimal thought required. Comments from friends—whether asking if you’re up for a trip to the mall or checking in to see how you’re doing with your injuries—often become unintended traps for you to say something that the insurance company will introduce in the courtroom. An example would be the natural inclination when asked how you’re feeling to respond with something along the lines of, “Getting better slowly,” or, “Hanging in there.” These types of responses—as mundane as they may seem—potentially devalue your claim.
How to Avoid Social Media Scrutiny
Sometimes it’s best to stay off of social media altogether during the pendency of a personal injury claim. If you can’t kick your social media habit, here are a few guiding principles to help you make smart decisions.
- Assume anything you post will be found by the insurance company and/or defense.
- Be aware of the possibility that an investigator might befriend you under false pretenses to try and bait you into a mishap.
- Do not rely on privacy settings. Assume that social media companies can be subpoenaed in a personal injury claim to share information and content.
- Do not rely on deleting certain posts. This can lead to big trouble for you and your attorney down the road.
- Ask friends not to tag you or upload photos of you without your consent.
Most importantly, hire an attorney early on in the process to represent your claim. Belgum, Fry & Van Allen can advise you on how best to minimize your vulnerability on social media and elsewhere. Click here to get a free case evaluation from our personal injury experts.