We live in a world of oversharing on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media practically invites us to keep the world updated on the mundane details of our lives. But this is a personal injury attorney’s worst nightmare during a lawsuit, such as a car accident injury case. For plaintiffs, one seemingly innocuous ill-advised status update can severely impact their settlement or verdict in a negative fashion.
Insurance companies are large corporations that have vast resources to investigate all claims. They often use a personal injury victim’s social media as a source of evidence against personal injury claims. Insurance companies encourage adjusters to monitor victims’ social media accounts in an attempt to gain “proof” a claimant is not as injured as they are representing. Adjusters are looking for evidence that can be twisted to suggest you either faked or exaggerated your injury, even when you have a legitimate claim.
People who pursue personal injury claims are doing so because they have suffered physical injuries, such as: broken bones, concussions, chronic pain, whiplash, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or connective tissue injuries. In a personal injury case, an attorney seeks to claim damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, disfigurement, future health care, loss of earning capacity, lost enjoyment of life, and similar claims. The combination of these factors drive the outcome of your injury claim, and determine what your settlement is worth.
In addition to physical injuries, accident victims often suffer from emotional distress, depression, anxiety, and isolation. Similar to the physical injuries, a claimant who wants to be compensated for emotional injuries must offer proof of the injuries. It is your attorney’s role to prove that you are entitled to compensation for emotional injuries as a direct consequence of the physical injuries sustained.
Everything a client posts on social media is considered public and falls under public record, and is discoverable in both pre-litigation settlements and in litigation. Even remarks with the best intentions about your personal injury claim can potentially be used against you by the insurance company. For this reason, we have assembled this social media guide for personal injury victims throughout the life of their case.
Personal Injury Social Media Guidelines
1. SET YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA TO PRIVATE
For many reasons, it is a good idea to ensure your personal social media accounts are set to private. Setting your profile to private will prevent outside parties from easily being able to access everything you publish online. But even if your profile is on private, you should still refrain from posting anything. An insurance company’s attorneys may send a letter of preservation stating evidence in social media accounts be maintained and preserved, and not destroyed, modified, altered, or changed in any manner. This includes information related to doctor’s visits, meetings, day-to-day activities, and any interactions with an insurance company. Anything related to your case is best kept off social media until the case is closed.
For example, if you make a post on social media and say “I crashed my car” (even when you are not at-fault) an insurance adjuster may see this and misconstrue your words to claim you admit liability. Similarly, if you post pictures of yourself out dancing with friends, the insurance adjuster may use it as evidence that your back must not be hurting that bad.
2. NO POSTS ABOUT YOUR INJURIES, OR GENERAL EMOTIONAL OR PHYSICAL WELL-BEING
While friends and family are always curious and want to make sure you are okay, publishing updates about your treatment and injuries can actually damage your case.
For example, many people post on social media that they have been in an accident. A typical response from family and friends is “Are you okay?”. Saying something as simple as “I’m doing alright” in response might minimize your true injuries in the eyes of insurance companies, thereby reducing or delaying your settlement by requiring litigation.
3. NO POSTS INVOLVING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
In any personal injury case, your legal team is trying to prove the damages that occurred in your accident and how those damages have negatively impacted your life. If your case has not settled, please refrain from posting pictures of yourself. A simple picture dancing out with your friends, or vacation and traveling pictures (ski trips, hikes, other strenuous activities) while in the midst of an injury claim could significantly impact your case. If you deal with chronic pain or are still suffering from serious injuries, pictures showing you engaging in seemingly “healthy” activities can jeopardize your case, as the pictures do not show the hidden pain you may experience.
4. DO NOT POST ANYTHING REGARDING YOUR INTERACTIONS WITH YOUR ATTORNEY
When a client becomes frustrated with the legal process, their medical care, or how long a case is taking, clients sometimes decide to write a negative online review. Evidence of discord between clients and their attorneys are often used against them in an injury case. Examples of detrimental negative reviews include:
- “I need money now and this it taking forever! I want my check!” – The length of each case varies, and it is the attorney’s goal to make sure that you are receiving the best settlement possible. If an adjuster sees an injured person is desperate, they can use it against the client by providing a low-ball settlement.
- “I am not happy with the medical treatment I am receiving.” – If you are unhappy with the medical treatment you are receiving, contact your paralegal or attorney. Posting this online can be used against you to devalue your medical treatment, which will reduce your settlement.
- “This law firm sucks!” – A negative review as simple as this will show a rift exists between you and your attorney. Adjusters use this against accident victims by concluding that they will settle at anything just to get the case closed. Further, if the review is factually inaccurate or suspicious it can lead to larger legal problems, or an investigation by an insurance company’s special investigative unit (SIU).
While your case is active, you are in control. If you are unhappy with the treatment or level of service you are receiving, ask to speak to someone else within the firm about your case. Often times, management can reassign you to a new case manager or help you find alternative care to ensure you are receiving the best help possible. If management and/or your attorney cannot resolve your issue by the time your case is settled, you can always leave a review at that time without damaging your case.
5. EDUCATE FAMILY MEMBERS USE GOOD JUDGEMENT IN THEIR POSTS
Unfortunately, you are not only responsible for what you post online, but also for what your family members might post or tag you in on their own social media. Thus, it is important to ask your family and friends to refrain from tagging you in any posts. In some instances – for example, any rideshare accident with Uber or Lyft – a confidential settlement may be reached. It is imperative that you counsel family to adhere to the agreement and refrain from posting anything that can be considered a violation of the terms of your settlement. Don’t believe us? Look at this case where a man’s daughter cost him his $80,000 settlement after gloating on Facebook.
6. IF YOU ARE UNCERTAIN ABOUT A POST, STOP
The things you say online can be interpreted far differently than you may intend. We often tell our clients to never give a recorded statement to an insurance company because anything you say can and typically will be used against you. The same goes for social media: a seemingly normal post, tweet, or chat could lead to unraveling of significant value in your case. It is best that you refrain from posting until after your case has been settled.
The risks of social media are real, and a simple post on social media is not worth the consequences it may have on your case. Exercise good judgment, think before you share, and ask others to do the same!
While you should be cautious about posting anything on social media while you have a pending personal injury claim, you should be especially careful about posting any of the following:
- Photos of the accident
- Photos of your injuries
- Information about your case or attorney
- Updates on your medical condition or treatment
- Arguments or replies about your case
Call Thompson Law at 844-308-8180
At Thompson Law, we know the experience of a personal injury claim is often very scary on multiple levels – physical, financial, legal & otherwise – given all of the unknowns. We strive to educate our clients on the process, properly set expectations and guide them through every step along the way, so they can focus on what matters most: getting better. If you feel at any time during your case that you are not receiving proper care or treatment, please reach out to us! You can reach us at any time via phone, email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or social media (though we don’t recommend you sharing anything sensitive on the latter, and that you only use direct messaging).