The social media and the internet have become an essential part of most people’s lives these days. However, if you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, you need to understand the risks of using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets. It is common knowledge that defense attorneys and insurance adjusters are good at finding ways to follow and investigate people who file lawsuits. They can easily use social media to do it. Typically, the goal is to find a way to dispute your claims and sometimes they can be successful. Your Joplin personal injury attorney will no doubt recommend that you avoid social media, at least for a while.
Your photos and comments can seriously damage your case
Assume you have filed a lawsuit claiming an injury to your back, following an auto accident. What type of damage do you think it would cause if you post a photo of yourself installing your child’s new playground set? Maybe an innocent tweet about your upcoming ski trip to Colorado or the marathon you ran that weekend.
Insurance adjusters and defense attorneys are well within their right to use these photos and comments as evidence against you. What your Joplin personal injury attorney will tell you is that your comments on Facebook, for example, are not necessarily private. That is especially true, depending on the nature of your privacy settings. Don’t forget that you cannot control the settings of your friends and others who redistribute your information.
Stay away from social media while your suit is pending
Basically, 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 and unwittingly jeopardize your chances for a successful outcome to your case.
Social media posts may be very persuasive 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.
Establishing damages is required for fair settlement
While most personal injury cases do settle, if you want a fair settlement you need to be able to document all of those injuries. Although it is easy to calculate such things as prior and future medical expenses, prior and future loss of earning capacity and property damages, other forms of damages like pain and suffering, mental anguish and physical impairment are more difficult to prove. In many cases, your ability to establish those types of damages depends entirely on how well these damages are documented. You Joplin personal injury attorney can help you determine what you need to document damages properly.
Document your damages with photos and videos
There is no question that photographs and video are great ways to document personal injury damages, especially when you are trying to make a record of the accident scene, property damage, bruises and other physical injuries. Bruises dissipate, stitches and casts are eventually removed. That’s why it’s best to take photos of these things before their gone.
Whether you should take photos or videos depends on the situation and the type of damages you are trying to document. If at all possible, taking both would be a good idea. Both digital photos and videos are easy to share, and can easily be edited for a trial presentation if necessary.
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 Joplin personal injury attorney can advise you on how to handle these questions.
If you have questions regarding social media risks, or any other personal injury issues in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.
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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