According to statista.com, there are over 3.6 billion people posting on social media, worldwide. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…these are all well known, social media platforms, where people go to share their lives. Even though these are great sources for catching up with old friends or "virtually" doing life with people who are just too far away, physically, they are also great sources of information; information that insurance adjusters and defense attorneys can use against you, in your personal injury claim or personal injury lawsuit.
1. But why????
If I had not been dealing with personal injury claims for almost 20 years now, I think my first question would be, "How in the world does what I have posted or will post harm my personal injury claim?" That is a great question. One of the elements of a personal injury claim is damages; 4 subcategories of the damages element are (1) past pain and suffering, (2) future pain and suffering, (3) past mental anguish, and (4) future mental anguish. Simply put, this allows the adjuster or jury to award the injured victim money, because the person that caused the personal injury caused the victim to miss out on "doing life" or to suffer a loss of enjoyment of life. That is basically what we post on social media, right, "doing life" or enjoying life. If you are in a car accident and post how much fun you are having, when you say you are suffering, these kinds of posts are very hard to overcome and can really cut in to what an adjuster or jury could award you for monetary damages.
2. Beware of the Pink Panther
Because one of the main goals of the adjuster or defense attorney is to pay the injured party as little as possible, they will go to the social media accounts, of the injured party, to investigate; they may actually hire investigators to research the social media accounts for them. Also, beware of what your friends post, because they can find you there as well. Sometimes, even if you have all of your social media accounts set to private, the investigators can still find information that could greatly harm your personal injury recovery. Also, following an accident, where you have filed a claim, beware of "strangers" sending you friend requests. Investigators have been known to "disguise" themselves, to seem like a friend, then turn around and providing all of the injured victim's posts to an adjuster or defense attorney.
3. Use of Past Social Posts to Make the Victim Look Bad!
Adjusters and defense attorneys also like to use social media posts to try to make the injured victim look like a bad person. This is more with posts made before the accident, that some people may find offensive or showing lifestyle choices that may not be in line with mainstream society. I have seen instances where clients like to go out and have fun, to have a couple of drinks with friends, and adjusters have pointed to these posts, trying to make the victim look like an alcoholic. I have also seen instances where the injured victim posted about political views and the adjuster tried to make the injured victim look like they were an extremist, not favored by the majority of citizens in the county (potential jury pool). Sometimes we post things, that mean one thing to us, but someone else can take the post and twist it and make it seem like we are a bad person or meant to harm someone else or another group of people. This is why you need to be careful about what you post, in general, and definitely make sure you know who is seeing your posts.
4. Examples of harmful social media posts
One of the most significant social media posts that I have seen used against clients is the "Check In". This post lets people know where you are and sometimes, depending on the location, what you are doing. If you fell at the grocery store, broke your leg, and are making a premises liability claim, "checking in" at the skating rink, a week after your fall, would be a bad choice. Even if you are there for a birthday party and are not even skating, one could argue or assume, that you could not have been hurt that bad. Another example of "checking in" causing harm to a personal injury claim is checking in at the gym. Typically, people are doing very strenuous activities at the gym. Someone with a back injury, checking in at the gym, 2 weeks after the wreck, would look suspicious. Even if you were there for therapy, to the average joe, it just looks like you are there to work out and how could you be hurt that bad, if you are at the gym, working out, 2 weeks after a back injury. One final example, posting about or checking in on vacations. I have had several clients that had pre-paid vacations, got into an accident, but did not want to lose the money on the vacation, so they went, and suffered through the entire thing, but all of the pictures they posted, made it look like they were having the time of their life; adjusters like to use these to devalue the pain and suffering portion of the claim.
5. Possible Posting Guidelines
Below are some suggestions on handling your social media account, following an accident, resulting in a personal injury claim. As always, it is best to consult with your personal injury attorney and follow their recommendations, regarding EVERYTHING about your claim.
1. Stop all posts, immediately following your accident.
2. Think about taking a break from all social media accounts, after your accident.
3. Make sure you have the highest level of privacy on every social media account you have.
4. Avoid adding any new friends, followers, etc., after your accident.
5. Don’t start following any new people or accounts.
6. Ask everyone you know not to comment on your pages, talk about you in social media, tag you in photos, or share/post anything about you.
7. Tell your personal injury attorney about all of your social media accounts and follow their advice as far as how to proceed with each one.
8. Talk with your personal injury attorney about disabling the geolocation feature on your phone.
If you still feel the need to post, do not make posts that:
· talk about your personal injury claim;
· talk about your injuries;
· show photos or videos about the accident;
· show photos or videos of your injuries, treatment or recovery;
· talk about the potential outcome of the case;
· talk about settlement funds from the case;
· violate attorney-client confidentiality.
Questions to ask yourself before you post a photo, following an accident:
· Do you look pain free?
· Do you look able to complete daily living activities without any pain or difficulties?
· Does the photo show injuries from the accident?
· Are you doing something that might make your injuries worse?
We are definitely a society of posters. We post about what we eat; we post about where we go; we post about who we are with; our social media accounts are like our little on-line diaries. Many years ago, a diary was one of the most private things a person had, but it as if now, privacy is no longer a concern. If you have a personal injury claim, privacy should be an utmost concern. Remember…#DontDoIt!