Social media can have a significant and negative impact on a personal injury case. Information posted on public social media sites is information that has been shared in a public forum (even when the highest privacy settings are utilized) and is not protected from having to be disclosed in connection with a lawsuit. People who have been injured in a car accident, for example, may post about the other driver, how the accident occurred, or their injuries. Although they mean well, this information is discoverable by the other party to a lawsuit, which may be the other driver or even an injured person’s own insurance company. These parties will attempt to use these posts to show that a person’s injuries were not severe. For example, people often post that they were in an accident, and they thank God that they are ok. The problem is that they may not have sustained life-threatening injuries, but they may still be injured and may not truly be “ok.” Defense attorneys can use these posts, however, to make it appear that someone was not injured at all or that they are exaggerating their injuries.
Social Media Posts Can Be Damaging
When lawsuits are filed, the parties’ social media accounts are researched, and sometimes parties must produce any posts that they have made. At times, the parties may even be ordered to turn over their computer or phone for inspection by the other party. Thus, it is always best not to post anything about the accident on any social media platform (whether it be photos on Facebook and Instagram or statements made on Twitter).
Social media networks have changed society and many of us now live our lives on display for all to see through detailed and frequent posts about our thoughts, feelings and everyday activities. Unfortunately for a plaintiff in a personal injury action, even the most innocuous of posts can potentially harm their case. For example, consider a young man who has been injured in an accident. He now suffers from insomnia caused by pain. This young man later posts a photo on Instagram that shows him smiling with friends on vacation along with a caption that states how much he enjoyed the vacation and was able to relax during this time away. This seemingly harmless and mundane sharing of a life event can be used by the other party as evidence that your pain and suffering simply is not as severe as you make it out to be.
The reason this can be so important is that juries are, by their nature, skeptical. Injured people are asking complete strangers to award them money for the injuries and their pain and suffering. Thus, jurors will be looking for reasons that you may not be truthful. One post like this can be very damaging to any case.
More and more often, insurers and attorneys review plaintiffs’ posts on social media to see if the information posted online conflicts with the information provided in a demand or in a lawsuit. Insurance companies employ analysts to study social media profiles of plaintiffs by examining pictures, captions and comments. Plaintiffs should also not accept friend requests from anyone that they do not personally know.
Deleting Is Not Enough
You might be reading this and thinking that a person can just delete a post. However, as we have been told, nothing is ever permanently deleted. Further, parties to litigation (and even to potential litigation) have a duty to ensure that potentially relevant case information is not destroyed. This could include social media posts, and deleting such evidence could be considered spoliation. Courts can and have penalized plaintiffs for violating their duty to preserve evidence.
Refrain From Posting
We always recommend to our clients that they refrain from posting on social media until their case is resolved. At an absolute minimum, they should not post anything about how they are feeling, about the other parties, and about how the incident occurred on social media.
If you have been injured because someone else was negligent, you should contact Aaron M. House at House Law LLC by calling 816-875-4260 for a free consultation to discuss your case.
Tags: personal injury