Nowadays, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t use social media. As a matter of fact, a recent study from the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of American adults report using at least one form of social media. That averages out to around 7 out of every 10. As a society, we are more interconnected than ever before.
In most cases, this is a good thing. It means that we are able to keep in touch with our loved ones more easily. It also means we have access to all the information we might need right at our fingertips. However, many people do not realize that social media posts can also be used as a form of evidence. This means that your own social media presence can be used against you in a personal injury claim. In this blog post, we will give you a brief overview of how this happens and what you can do to avoid it.
In most personal injury cases, the biggest claim for damages lies in “pain and suffering.” If this term sounds nebulous and vague, it’s because it is. Simply put, “pain and suffering” refers to the total physical suffering you’ve experienced as a result of your injuries. Oftentimes, pain and suffering damages will yield even more than the total compensation you will receive for your medical expenses.
However, pain and suffering are also much more difficult to prove than outright injury. After all, it is hard to argue with something like an x-ray of your broken leg after a car accident. How are you supposed to prove the actual amount of suffering you’ve gone through? In most cases, it comes down to your own testimony. This, in turn, means that insurance claims adjusters will do everything they can to disprove your claims.
The discovery process refers to the pre-trial procedures a party will go through in order to obtain all necessary evidence from any relevant parties. Such a process can only begin once a lawsuit has been filed. Once this has occurred, all involved parties have the right to demand any evidence that is in the possession of the other parties. This includes asking for access to social media pages. Refusing to meet these demands may be met with a court order.
To reiterate, this discovery process cannot begin until a formal complaint has been filed (read: until the case has been taken to litigation). Many personal injury claims resolve themselves before getting to this point. However, it is also not uncommon for plaintiffs to file a complaint with the court for the express purpose of pressuring the insurance company to issue a reasonable settlement offer out of court. Furthermore, insurance companies may actually want a complaint to be filed so they can begin the discovery process!
It is important to keep in mind that insurance companies will always have their own best interests in mind—regardless of whether or not you were actually innocent in your accident. Every dollar they offer you in your settlement has to come directly out of their own pockets, so they have every reason to minimize their losses. You should never feel pressured into offering a smaller settlement than you deserve. Procuring the help of a trusted personal injury attorney can help.
You may think that restricting your social media privacy settings will keep you safe from having your posts being searched. After all, how can anyone look through your posts if they’re limited to “friends only”? Wouldn’t it be an invasion of your privacy to ask you to unlock your account?
The answer, in short, is no. Unfortunately, there have already been numerous court decisions that have set the precedent for this. In general, if something is a violation of an individual’s “reasonable expectation of privacy,” a search warrant or special exception is necessary in order to warrant the requested evidence. However, this has been established to not be the case for social media posts.
It is extraordinarily easy for social media posts to be taken out of context or purposefully misconstrued. You may want to consider holding off on making any new posts until your personal injury case has been resolved. However, if you can’t resist the urge to post, the following precautions may help.
Limit your privacy settings. As we have already established, insurance companies can only demand to see your social media profiles once the discovery process has begun. However, this does not mean that they won’t go looking for your profile beforehand. Protect yourself by setting your privacy settings to the absolute maximum—you don’t want anyone to see your posts unless you know you can trust them. Make sure you know everyone on your friend list.
Don’t talk about your personal injury. Stick only to the facts. Don’t tell your friends that you’re “totally fine” and don’t say that you feel bad that the accident happened. Posts of that nature are notoriously easy to misconstrue as admissions of guilt. Similarly, refrain from uploading any excessively cheerful posts. The opposing party may argue that this is proof that you are exaggerating your injuries.
Don’t post any evidence. This is true whether or not said evidence is favorable to your case. It’s possible that there will be unintended consequences for sharing them with the public. Do not defend yourself, and do not assume a false name will protect you. Remember, there is still the possibility that your case will enter the discovery process.
We know that dealing with personal injury is hard. You become immediately overwhelmed with things to do after your accident. It does not have to be long before you feel like you are swamped with more than you can handle. Fortunately, you do not have to go through it alone. A trusted nationwide personal injury attorney may be able to help.
At Injury Victim Law, we know that you want to have the quickest and smoothest possible transition back into your everyday life. That is why we are dedicated to bringing you the most efficient results for your personal injury case. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the nation.
You should never have to pay for somebody else’s mistakes. That is why there is nothing more important to us than helping our clients. We are here to protect your legal rights and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our qualified attorneys. Let us take care of the rest.