In this day and age of technology, it’s rare that someone doesn’t have at least one social media account. They’re great for keeping up with friends and family, organizing community events, making business connections, or just sparking your creativity. Let’s face it though, one of the biggest attractions to having such a broad audience is that when something bothers you, it feels like a safe environment to vent your frustration. But how safe is it really?
If you’re involved in any legal action, including trying to work out a personal injury settlement, you’re likely to have periods of frustration, especially in the beginning. Maybe the insurance company is refusing to pay for a rental car after your vehicle was totaled or they’re trying to twist the events that left you injured into somehow being your fault. Tempting though it may be, turning to your virtual community for support is not in your best interest if you want to be successful in winning your claim.
What kinds of posts can be damaging to a claim?
Using social media is the best way to give a defendant means to attack your credibility. They do this by showing your claim is weak using your own words or those of your friends against you. That can cause doubt as to how severely the defendant’s negligence has affected you. In the end, it can leave you holding the bag and paying for your own recovery and being out of pocket for all of your expenses and financial losses. This isn’t the costly position you want to put yourself in because you failed to exercise a little restraint.
The sooner you learn that nothing is foolproof, the better protected your case will be. The best thing you can do for yourself is to assume that your profile is under constant review for information such as:
- Activities such as drinking alcohol, or any behavior that could be used to show you may have contributed to your own accident.
- Photos with family or friends showing that you’re enjoying yourself can poke holes in a pain and suffering claim.
- Posts or photographic evidence of you engaging in any physical activity that contradicts your injuries can reduce your damages or even lead to your case being dismissed.
- Posts or photos of your latest shopping spree or other purchases showing that your financial situation is not as dire as you’ve alleged can eliminate any number of claims.
- Posting that you’re looking for or participating in work-from-home opportunities while claiming damages because you can’t work will likely end in denying payment of lost wages.
Even posting that you received a large settlement after you’ve reached an agreement can cost you more than that satisfaction is worth when the agreement contains a confidentiality clause not to disclose the details of your settlement.
How did they see all my posts, anyway?
You might be wondering how it is possible that any of this can even be used against you. It’s your private account and you didn’t willingly share the information. Besides, you can just delete your account if something damning pops up that you can’t get rid of. That can get you into hot water if a court views it as spoliation of evidence, which means you’ve destroyed evidence that could have been useful to the defense’s case.
Avoid social media use that can become detrimental to your case
It’s always a good rule of thumb to keep your social media profiles set to private but depending upon what you use these platforms for, that may not always work. Once your personal injury case begins, however, this should be the first action you take. You also need to be very wary of new friend requests anytime during the course of your case. You have no way of properly vetting who you are giving access of your online life to, including investigators for the defense.
It’s easy to say that you should just entirely avoid using social media until your case is resolved, but that’s an unrealistic expectation in today’s world. You can and should take actions to protect your virtual presence from coming back to haunt you by:
- Being vigilant about keeping tabs on your accounts – all of them. We all have that friend who is likely to say the wrong thing at the wrong time no matter how well-intentioned and supportive they may be. Temporarily block these friends from being able to post or comment on your page.
- Setting controls when possible to prevent anyone from being able to tag you or mention you in their posts.
- Refraining from commenting on friends’ posts thinking it’s a safe space. Investigators can deduce from your previous posts who you communicate with fairly regularly, to see if you’ve said anything they can use to minimize their liability.
- Refraining from using hashtags in any of your posts. Even if you think your account is locked down tight, you can slip up by making a lighthearted or sarcastic hashtag meant to express your feelings about your accident. These can make your posts visible to anyone who searches that hashtag.
- Most importantly, not mentioning anything about your accident or even posting a photo of the damage to you or your vehicle. There will be plenty of time for war stories with friends after your case is settled.
Larson Law Firm, P.C. provides personalized legal guidance to each client because we know that each case is different and demands a tailored approach to obtain the fair result you deserve. Sometimes a settlement just won’t come easily making it necessary to try your case in court. Our qualified team of personal injury lawyers is ready to meet the challenges of whatever path offers the best possible outcome for you. To schedule your free consultation in our Minot or Bismarck offices, call 701-484-4878, or reach out to us through our contact page to tell us your story.
Mark Larson is a Certified Civil Trial Specialist and Certified Civil Pre-Trial Specialist focusing on personal injury, motor vehicle, wrongful death, and oil field claims. Since 1979, Larson Law Firm has served the injured throughout North Dakota. Read more about Mark V. Larson