It’s an increasingly connected world that we live in. An important part of that connection is electronic—most of us interact with others electronically through social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat, to name a few. Of course, there are also e-mail messages and text messages.
This is how we communicate with our family, friends, and the 10,000 other people who have friended us. It’s fun to have an online presence, we encourage you to do so, if it is something that works for you.
But if you have a personal injury claim, we need to talk. The title is a bit harsh—you don’t need to cut all ties with online social media, but you do need to be careful. The problem, from my perspective, is context. As a lawyer, I will search for the social media posts of my adversary. We saw a post once from a defendant (who denied causing the accident) that said (and I’m paraphrasing for a G-rated post, here), saw a beautiful woman on the street, and got into an accident. Now, maybe he was distracted, and the accident caused because his attention was elsewhere. Maybe he was just trying to be funny, or make light of a serious situation because that the type of humor he has. I don’t know. But I can tell you that it was important evidence to show the jury, and that they didn’t trust his story at trial.
So, what recommendations do I have for you?
- First, don’t talk about how your injury happened. Don’t say anything about the other driver, about where you were going, or the fact that you were even involved in any sort of situation. Anything you say is going to be admissible at court, and even though you might be exaggerating for effect, or joking, or being sarcastic, the words will be evidence. And it might not go your way.
- Second, don’t discuss your injuries. We don’t want anything competing for the truth—you will talk to your doctors about your injuries (tell them everything). Social media is not the place to discuss that stuff, and it will raise questions if there is any discrepancy between what you tell your online friends, and what you tell your doctors.
- Third, try to limit your social media posts on things that could be related to your injury. Here’s an example—if you post a photograph of your garden after a collision where you hurt your shoulder, that picture is going to be used by the defendant to show that your shoulder must not have hurt as much, because you were able to use a shovel. They might not know the reality, that you were loaded up on painkillers beforehand, or that you slugged it out with your non-dominant arm, or that your daughter did the heavy lifting. The point is this—context is everything, and a short social media post won’t give the full context. Then, it will be up to the judge or jury to believe or disbelieve what you say in light of those social media posts.
- Fourth, don’t friend people you don’t know. They might be plants by the insurance company, or private investigators, or people who somehow know the person at fault.
- Fifth, check your privacy settings and cull your friend list. Get rid of anyone who shouldn’t be there, and make sure that your posts are limited to those people you can trust.
- Finally, don’t talk about how much money you are going to make at trial. Frankly, it’s distasteful. Even if you deserve to be compensated, it’s going to make you look like a money-grubbing plaintiff, which is a terrible stereotype to fulfill.
Again, you don’t need a total social media blackout. Just take care, and be careful.
If you have questions about your social media use after an accident or an injury, contact Grant at 410.252.0600, or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.