How Careless Social Media Use Can Hurt Your Lawsuit
When negligence causes an injury, seeking the assistance of a personal injury lawyer will ensure the negligent party is held responsible for the cost of your injuries. When you hire a Carlson Law Firm attorney, you’re hiring a team of investigators, nurses, and accessing an entire network of experts to assist you through your recovery. What you may not know is that the insurance companies you’re going up against also have these in-house experts. Their team of insurance adjusters and lawyers will immediately begin working to discredit your injury claim. And one way they do this is by monitoring your social media.
According to research, 69% of U.S. adults across all age groups have and actively use at least one social media site. With that in mind, it’s fair to assume that a majority of personal injury clients have at least one social media account. But it’s important for clients to understand that no matter how harmless it may seem, anything you post to social media can be used against you in a personal injury lawsuit.
What type of information is available on social media?
Some people don’t care about their privacy settings on social media. In fact, some people do not realize that even if they just share memes, they are still revealing quite a bit about themselves online. What you post online may seem insignificant to you, but much of what we do and say on the internet is not in line with how to talk or act at work or at dinner parties. For some reason, sitting in front of a computer screen strips us of the social filter that governs much of our daily lives. We turn to social media to vent, to share an exciting or fun time and to celebrate accomplishments.
Insurance companies and defense attorneys are skilled at twisting information available to create a narrative around a claimant and their injuries. Even accounts that haven’t been used in years contain a wealth of information. Typically, a person’s profile provides the following information:
- Date of birth
- Relationship status
- Photos of the person and family
- Videos that may show the person’s speaking patterns
- Posts and comments
While all of this information is useful, typically what defense teams are searching for are messages, videos, and photographs. These types of social media posts may provide evidence that can help them deny your claim.
How do defense teams and insurance companies use social media?
Social media is deeply embedded in our lives. As more people leave their digital footprints online, risk managers, insurance carriers and corporations can now leverage social media to combat what they consider insurance fraud. They can use the information they find online to insinuate that your injuries aren’t nearly as severe as you say.
For example, if you are filing a lawsuit and claiming that you have a back injury as the result of a slip and fall, it’s best that you not post about the 5K race you recently completed. A savvy insurance agent can find your profile and see the photo of you running the race. The insurance agent may claim that your injury is not that serious or that you’re not even injured.
What type of social media use can hurt my personal injury claim?
Personal injury attorneys tell their clients not to talk to anyone after a crash. The reason they do so is that anything that you say can be used against you. Admitting any liability whether to an insurance agent or online can hurt your case. For example, snapping a quick picture of your car and captioning it with “I crashed my car” can suggest that you are liable for your own injuries.
Even responding to a comment about your accident can be used against you. If a friend asks you if you’re doing OK and you respond “I feel great!” this could hurt your settlement.
If you are injured after an act of negligence, do not post the following on social media:
Offering an apology after a crash can seriously reduce the amount of your settlement. Even if you’re sorry, don’t say it after a crash, and especially don’t say it online.
Even you are genuinely upset about how the insurance company is giving you the runaround, ranting or venting about your situation is not a good look. In fact, it can make you seem like a vindictive person who is filing a lawsuit simply out of revenge. Saying anything negative about the parties involved such as the defendant or the insurance company can be construed as vindictiveness. A judge or jury may be less likely to show compassion toward you if the defense can successfully paint you as vindictive.
Even when you know that someone else’s negligence caused your injuries posting a picture of your broken arm in a cast with a post saying, “I wasn’t paying attention and slipped on a wet floor,” can hurt your case.
Minimization of your injuries
Even if you have to take an extra pain reliever, to make it through an event, posting a picture as innocent as a picture of your son’s baseball game, or even having dinner with friends can suggest that your injuries aren’t as severe as you may claim.
Photos or Video
We recommend taking photos and videos of a crash scene to help your case. But posting those photos and videos online is not something recommend.
How risky are the most popular social networks to your personal injury lawsuit?
You may think that your privacy settings ensure everything you post is private. However, that is not the case. Opposing attorneys and insurance adjusters can easily find you on social media and can access anything you post. In fact, there are entire companies that exist to help insurance companies dig through your social media accounts. This is because unlike emails and texts, social media posts do not have those same privacy protections.
While privacy is less of a concern with some sites than it is others, you should post with the idea that nothing online is private—no matter how good the company promises its privacy settings are.
Pinterest is the go-to place for inspiration. When it comes to social media, it’s the site that is least likely to affect your personal injury. That’s more so because the nature of what the site is used for. Generally, users post more about their DIY projects and care less about engagement. It’s not likely that an insurance adjuster will try to find you on Pinterest, but you should never underestimate the depths they’ll go to deny your claim.
TikTok is growing in popularity in the United States, particularly among pre-teens and teens. It’s only a matter of time until the video sharing social networking reaches Millennials and Gen X and maybe some Boomers. The app allows users to create 15-second videos with filters and create lip-syncing videos. Users can sign up through their Facebook, Google or Twitter accounts and prompts you to put in your birthday. You can add friends through Facebook and your contact list or scan your TikCode
Tumblr is a microblogging site and social networking site. Users can share blogs, photos, links, videos and audio. The site isn’t as popular as other social media sites, but it is often the source of viral content. If you are a Tumblr user, be mindful of what you post.
WhatsApp is the third most used social media site in the world. The app started off as a messaging app between friends and family, but it has gradually rolled out a business platform. While the site is secure, just like any other messaging platform, users can screenshot or screen record whatever you share with them. What makes the site insecure is that you input your real phone number and the app automatically syncs your contact list. Consider the information you share and who you share it with.
Snapchat is a user to user social media app. It’s popularity stems from its disappearing messages, screenshot and message saved alerts, and beautifying or goofy filters. Snapchat helps users find friends by syncing your phone’s contact list. Users can send direct messages, post to their stories or share ‘our’ story which posts public posts to the nearest region.
Those familiar with Linked In may be surprised to see the social networking site for professionals so high up on the list. But LinkedIn allows users to write blogs, share photos and post status updates. It may not seem like a big deal to share an inspirational post about a car accident or the company hike you were part of, but doing so can hurt a personal injury lawsuit you may be pursuing.
Twitter isn’t as popular as the media leads us to believe. With just 335 million monthly active users a month, Twitter is only the 12th most used social media site. Twitter differs from other social media websites because its popularity is based on its emphasis on real time information. Users can post photos, videos and gifs with a 280-character text limit.
Another piece of the Facebook family, the more than 1 billion Instagram users can share videos and photos with filters over them. In addition, Instagram’s stories have now eclipsed Snapchat. Instagram allows users to control their privacy settings, however, many people aren’t aware that their profiles are public.
YouTube nets about 1.9 billion monthly active users—making it the second most used social networking site. It’s easy to think of YouTube as a place where you just watch videos, but if you have a vlog and actively post to YouTube then you may could hurt your personal injury case.
Facebook is the first social media site to hit one billion users. While other apps on this list offer slices of everything social media has to offer, Facebook is the all in one stop. You can share videos, pictures, texts statuses, links, stories, livestream and so on. It’s also the most popular social network by far—boasting more than 2.23 billion monthly active users. It’s the social networking site that many of us turn to when we are dealing with stress and need to vent. With that in mind, it’s also the first place insurance agents look when a claim is filed.
Can social media hurt emotional distress claims?
In addition to physical injuries, many personal injury claimants suffer emotional distress. Injured parties are also entitled to compensation for emotional injuries. Emotional distress can include:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Even if you’re careful about what you post as far as your physical injuries are concerned, a picture with you smiling can be misconstrued as your emotional distress being a facade.
Personal injury lawsuit social media best practices
Be careful what you post. Social media is a very public outlet, no matter how secure you think your privacy settings are. Information you post online can be easily accessed. If you or a loved one are filing a personal injury lawsuit, consider these do’s and don’ts:
- Double check your privacy settings. While nothing on the internet is private, you shouldn’t make it easy for insurance companies and defense attorneys to find the information.
- Consider deactivating your accounts for the duration of your lawsuit, or until your doctor releases you because you’ve reached maximum medical improvement.
- Ask your attorney about appropriate social media behavior for the duration of your case.
- Ask your friends not to post about you online until your case resolves.
- Post information about your injury or the accident.
- Post the details about your personal injury claim.
- Accept friend requests from people you’ve never met.
- Post photos or videos about the accident or injuries related to the accident.
- Post details about your medical treatment.
- Accept calls or return calls or messages from strangers.
- Post anything about pre-existing conditions, illnesses or unrelated physical injuries.
- Post photos or videos that show your physical capabilities are not consistent with the limitations you allege in your personal injury claim.
Don’t hurt your claim — Hire a Carlson Law Firm attorney
Suffering an injury is a traumatic event and navigating the American legal system after an injury can be confusing. While turning to social media to vent about your dealings with insurance companies or defendants is tempting, it’s better to turn to a personal injury attorney. The Carlson Law Firm has more than 40 attorneys who are backed by a team of private investigators, nurses, and a legal team built for building strong cases. Our legal professionals can guide you through the legal process and give you tips to ensure you receive favorable compensation.
- Written by Kazia Conway