It is not uncommon for some to post details about their lives, almost daily, on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. But, for those who have a pending personal injury case, your personal injury lawyer will tell you to be careful. The reality is, defense attorneys and insurance adjusters are notorious for finding ways to follow and investigate litigants using social media. Usually, the goal is to find a way to contradict your claims. Sometimes they are actually successful. Your personal injury lawyer will no doubt recommend that you avoid social media, at least for a while.
Comments and photos posted on social media could be used against you
You may not realize it, the comments and photos that you post for others to see can easily be used against you in a personal injury lawsuit. Consider, for example, someone who has filed a lawsuit claiming a back injury following an auto accident. Something as innocent as a photo of yourself installing your child’s new playground set can put your claimed injuries into question. Even a casual tweet about your upcoming hiking trip or the marathon you ran that weekend, can destroy your injury claims.
Don’t be fooled. Insurance adjusters and defense attorneys are well within their rights to use these photos and comments as evidence against you. Contrary to what you may assume, your comments on Facebook, for instance, are not necessarily private. That is especially true, depending on the nature of your privacy settings. Remember that you cannot control the settings of your friends and others who redistribute your information.
It is best to avoid social media while your lawsuit is pending
Ultimately, you don’t want to give the defense anything they could potentially manipulate or misrepresent in order to damage your personal injury case. Don’t forget, the goal of the insurance company is to pay as little as possible for your claim. The best thing to do is take a break from social media while your case is pending. Otherwise you could easily, yet unknowingly, jeopardize your chances for a successful outcome to your case.
The value of your case will depend on your damages or injuries
Every legal claim is different, both factually and with regard to the laws that apply. The most important component in determining the value of a personal injury claim is the nature and seriousness of the actual injuries. The purpose of a damages award in a personal injury case is to make the victim “whole.” This basically means compensating the victim for everything was lost as a result of the accident or injury. The only way to do accomplish that is through a monetary award.
Can social media posts be used as reliable evidence?
Despite the rising trend in litigation of using social media posts as evidence, the question remains whether or not these posts should be considered, for example, a reliable barometer of a claimant’s emotional state. The reality is, people often use Facebook as a way to “keep up appearances.” In many cases, the so-called “evidence” from social media is nothing more than a snapshot of what the person wants the public to see or know.
Social media evidence that disproves certain “facts”
While it is certainly possible that the court or a jury could misconstrue some Facebook evidence, there are still situations where postings on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets may be relevant. For example, if a plaintiff testifies that his injuries prevented him from playing with his children, but there are several pictures on Facebook showing the plaintiff carrying his daughter around on his back and playing soccer with his son after the accident, those photos would be relevant to disprove the injury claims.
Personal injury lawsuits and privacy
Whenever you file a lawsuit of any type, you should be prepared to lose a certain degree of privacy. Defense attorneys will ask questions during the discovery phase of litigation that will most often seem intrusive. In fact, the defense attorneys have the legal right to require that you turn over your financial, medical and employment records. While these methods may seem like an invasion of privacy, it is a normal part of the litigation process. Your personal injury attorney can advise you on how to handle these questions.
If you have questions regarding social media and damages claims, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (800) 364-8305.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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