Social media is an almost unavoidable part of modern life for most adults, and many people manage multiple social media accounts for various reasons. Most personal injury attorneys recommend their clients avoid social media while they have cases in progress. Giving up the social interaction may be difficult for some, but social media use can potentially endanger a personal injury claim in several ways.
One of the most obvious reasons to avoid social media use during a personal injury case is to avoid posting anything that conflicts with elements of your claim. For example, if you are in a personal injury case over a vehicle accident that left you with a broken leg, posting photos of you out on the town with your friends or having fun at the beach without a leg brace or cast will reflect very poorly on your position if the opposition or jury sees the photos.
The biggest potential drawback to posting on social media during a personal injury case is it provides the defense an opportunity to disprove your claims of pain and suffering. The justice system allows plaintiffs in civil claims to secure compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish resulting from a defendant’s actions.
Bragging about a personal injury lawsuit is also not only distasteful but also potentially harmful to your case. Making posts about the big windfall you expect from your lawsuit casts doubts on your sincerity in the eyes of the court and the jury; they may begin to believe you are pursuing your claim purely for financial reasons and may start to doubt the severity of your claimed damages or your sincerity in general.
Imagine a plaintiff claiming damages for a severe injury that led to loss of enjoyment of life and the manifestation of symptoms of depression. It is the defendant’s attorney’s job to find any evidence that conflicts with a plaintiff’s story, and the discovery of social media posts that show the plaintiff enjoying the company of friends and family after making the complaint could be a boon to the defense and lead to the plaintiff losing the right to claim damages in the eyes of the judge. Even seemingly innocuous social media posts can have a detrimental effect, so it is generally best to avoid posting on social media entirely while pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.
Do Social Media Posts Count as Public Record?
Some personal injury plaintiffs mistakenly assume their social media posts count as their personal private property and only people in their social media networks have a right to view them. However, this is untrue and social media posts fall under public record. Anything you post on a public forum can potentially work against you in a personal injury claim. The only exceptions are private messages, such as those contained in Facebook’s Messenger application or Twitter’s Direct Messages. These messages may only come into play with a warrant or the account holder’s consent.
Tips for Handling Social Media During a Personal Injury Case
The best social media policy during a personal injury case is a no-social-media policy; it is ultimately in your best interests to avoid posting entirely. Feel free to browse your social media timelines and news feeds at your leisure but refrain from interacting with others’ posts or making posts of your own. You may want to lock or temporarily suspend your social media accounts.
Some social media platforms offer you the option of setting your account’s privacy settings so only certain connected accounts can view your posts. However, this is not a foolproof roadblock if you are concerned about the defense accessing your posts; it is best to simply avoid social media for the duration of your personal injury case. You should also ask friends and relatives to avoid posting anything related to your case or your personal situation during the case, either to their own profiles or your own.