If you’re like me, you love social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Foursquare, Google Plus. You name it and I’ve probably posted there in the last twenty-four hours. Social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends, engage in community or political activism, discuss current events, and share thoughts and ideas. It is also one of the tools the insurance company will try to use to defeat your injury claim.
Your social media accounts can be used against you in multiple ways. First, the insurance company can use your posts about everyday activities to suggest to the jury that you really weren’t that badly hurt. Of course, you aren’t going to stop picking up your baby just because your lower back hurts, but you can bet the insurance company will make the most of it. Just putting a picture in front of the jury of you lifting your child creates doubt about your injury and raises the suggestion that you are exaggerating or even faking your injuries and your doctors are all frauds. Of course, the jury won’t really believe that, but the insurance company lawyers don’t have to prove anything. All they have to do is create confusion and doubt and they win.
Another potential hazard of social media arises when you actually do engage in strenuous or risky activities while you are getting treatment for your injuries. Perhaps you had a vacation to Cabo scheduled months in advance, and while there, you decided to try windsurfing or paddle boarding. Perhaps you were at the park and were tackled by a St. Bernard. If you post photos or descriptions of these activities on your social media accounts, there is a good chance the insurance company will find them and try to use them against you. While there are explanations for such activities, my experience is that the more you have to explain at trial, the worse your chances are of getting a fair recovery.
Sometimes a condition of settling a claim is a confidentiality agreement. This means that you will agree to refrain from making public statements about the incident, the other party, and your settlement. If you use your social media accounts to discuss the incident or to badmouth the other party, this could negatively impact your ability to resolve your claim.
If you have a pending injury claim, my advice is to suspend your social media accounts immediately. Do not post anything and do not let other people post to your profiles. Cancel the accounts if possible. If you are simply unwilling to do this, at least change your privacy settings to maximize your privacy. Be aware, however, that some courts have ruled your social media accounts are not private and you may be forced to disclose them to the insurance company lawyers if you proceed to trial.
A good rule of thumb is to consider that anything you post can and probably will be used against you. Use social media with extreme caution. Better yet, for the duration of your case, don’t use it at all.