How Social Media Can Impact Your Personal Injury Case

Social Media and Personal Injury Claims

Social media is just about everywhere. We use it to stay ‘in the loop’ when it comes to the news, media, and friends. Users have access to a vast array of publishing tools through which they can broadcast about themselves.

This unregulated behavior has become second nature to us, so much so that we inadvertently information that could come back to haunt us later in life. The posts you make on social media is often used to corroborate your story by police officials, the jury, insurance companies, or anyone who may want to affect your case.

It’s safe to say that anything you publish can and will be used against you in court

This is true for injury victims who also use social media. An experienced California personal injury law firm would tell you to use social media with extreme precaution. If you’re not good with social media, it’s better to abandon it entirely – at least until your injury case is resolved.

Social Media is a Tool for Attorneys and Investigators

Did you know that attorneys in personal injury often use social media posts to refute or make injury claims? This also applies to information shared by other people who may be related to you. Many posts and photos contain valuable information that could be used to prove (or disprove) your narrative. This includes geo-location data, information about your day-to-day activates, and how you behave as a person.

If you were hurt in an accident and file a lawsuit against the perpetrator, their insurance company will start looking for evidence of your pain (or lack thereof). If you claim to be in severe pain, but your social media posts depict otherwise, it could be shown to the judge and jury. Investigators will commonly snoop around common social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

They’ll comb through your friends’ list, follower, websites, LinkedIn profile – and just about anything that could be used to establish their side of the story. When it comes to saving hundreds of thousands of dollars, all options are on the table.

Here’s what insurance companies commonly evaluate:

  • Do social media posts reveal you as smiling or engaged in regular activities?
  • Do you have an active social life?
  • What locations does your geodata show you visited?
  • What information does it reveal about your accident claims?
  • Are you participating in activities that could be contributing to your injuries?
  • Are your activities interfering with your medical treatment plan as prescribed by your doctor?

The bottom line is, you can count on the defendant to scour the internet for any information about you to forge a narrative that contracts your personal injury claim. This is why experienced California personal injury attorneys advise against using social media altogether.

A Good Example of Social Media Sabotaging Your Injury Claim

Picture yourself as a victim of a severe car accident that caused you multiple bone fractures and extreme emotional stress. You claim that the Accident not only caused you great bodily pain, but you also lost your ability to everyday life and are suffering from severe mental stress. You lawyer up and file your claim with the court and patiently await justice.

While the court process proceeds, you decide to go on an outdoor adventure with your friend. It could be hiking up a mountain or snowboarding. Instead of staying put while your friends go out, you decide to join in the fun. You wait for those cute “Instagrammable” moments and pose for a selfie with everyone.

The caption on the photo says, “Had a blast with friends last night at Mammoth Lake!” Later that same day, you decide to go out for food and the movies with your friends. You take several photos while you’re out, all of them showing you having ‘a blast.’ Your friend uploads the picture on Facebook and tags our account. 

When the trip ends, you return home and check in with your personal injury lawyer to ask for an update on your case. Your attorney informs you that the opposing counsel has seen the pictures of the vacation to your shock and horror. This information will be used against you to refute your bodily injury claims, loss of quality of life, and mental suffering.

While the court process proceeds, you decide to go on an outdoor adventure with your friend. It could be hiking up a mountain or snowboarding. Instead of staying put while your friends go out, you decide to join in the fun. You wait for those cute “Instagrammable” moments and pose for a selfie with everyone.

The caption on the photo says, “Had a blast with friends last night at Mammoth Lake!”. Later that same day, you decide to go out for food and the movies with your friends. You take several photos while you’re out, all of thems how you having ‘a blast’. Your friend uploads the picture on Facebook and tags our account. 

When the trip ends, you return home and touch base with your personal injury lawyer to ask for an update on your case. To your shock and horror, your attorney informs you that the opposing counsel has seen the pictures of the vacation. This information will be used against you to refute your claims of bodily injury, loss of quality of life, and mental suffering.

How This Discovery Could Affect the Outcome of Your Lawsuit

After the defense attempts throwing a few low-ball offers to settle out of court, the case moves to trial. This means that a jury will now be responsible for deciding causation, liability, and total damages. The jury will examine all the available evidence (including your social media posts) to determine if you have suffered multiple bone fragments and if it impaired your capacity to lead a normal life.

At Phoong Law, we are acutely aware of the intricacies of monitoring social media accounts throughout pending personal injury claims. However, we must advise you of social media’s potential impact on your claim. All it takes is a single post (from the timeline of your injury to the present day) to cast doubt in your version of the events.

It could be the difference between a massive settlement or a low-ball offer, or a jury verdict in your favor and an award of little damages.

It’s crucial not to give away any evidence to the defense unwittingly if your case is still pending. But all too often, unwitting injury victims weaken their case with their social media posts.

When your case is still pending, the best thing to do is to deactivate your accounts, stay off social media, and wait until your case is settled. However, if you need to be on social media for different reasons, or you can’t imagine yourself staying disconnected for too long, there are a few best practices you can follow while your case is still pending.

The jury can be easily influenced over a few social media posts – and that’s what the defense attorney plans on doing. After hearing your story about all the distress you’ve been in because of the injury case, the jury finds it hard to corroborate the little vacation with friends. Your claim for physical injury has been called in to question as a result, and the jury decides not to reward you for the payout you rightfully deserve.

Why You Need an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney’s Help

At Phoong Law, we are acutely aware of the intricacies of monitoring social media accounts throughout pending personal injury claims. However, we must advise you of social media’s potential impact on your claim. All it takes is a single post (from the timeline of your injury to the present day) to cast doubt in your version of the events.

It could be the difference between a massive settlement or a low-ball offer, or a jury verdict in your favor and an award of little damages.

It’s crucial not to give away any evidence to the defense unwittingly if your case is still pending. But all too often, unwitting injury victims weaken their case with their social media posts.

When your case is still pending, the best thing to do is to deactivate your accounts, stay off social media, and wait until your case is settled. However, if you need to be on social media for different reasons, or you can’t imagine yourself staying disconnected for too long, there are a few best practices you can follow while your case is still pending.

It could be the difference between a massive settlement or a low-ball offer, or a jury verdict in your favor and an award of little damages.

It’s very important to not give away any evidence to the defense unwittingly if your case is still pending. But all too often, unwitting injury victims weaken their own case with their social media posts.

The best thing to do when your case is still pending is to deactivate your accounts, stay off social media, and wait until your case is settled. However, if you need to be on social media for different reasons, or you simply can’t imagine yourself staying disconnected for too long, there are a few best practices you can follow while your case is still pending.

Protect Your Social Media Privacy

Please do not make it easy for your opponents or other investigators to go through your accounts and use your personal details, photos, and posts against you. Enable all privacy settings as far as possible. It is worth pointing out that all your online information is accessible for anyone with the means.

Don’t Accept Friend Requests from People You Don’t Know

It is not uncommon for the opposing side to use various unfair tactics to access your accounts, even if you’ve enabled the highest privacy settings. This is unethical and not entirely illegal. Don’t be surprised to receive friend requests from attorneys, insurance claims adjusters, and unknown accounts (often under disguise).

There is a significant likelihood for this to be an attempt at gaining access to your private posts (and, consequently, your information). Make sure to thoroughly vet the social media account before accepting any friend or follow requests. Or better yet, don’t accept any invitations at all for the time being.

Abstain from Discussing Your Case Online

Online statements related to the Accident are like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can be used to garner sympathy and support from people (including the jury), but on the other, it could be used to suggest that you’re not telling the whole truth. The truth is you may have slipped up a few details or added a few extra points that may not match with your official statement.

Once the defense counsel, investigators, and jury begins to dissect your statement, they realize you’re not keeping your story straight. It is not uncommon for social media posts to contain a slightly different version of the events (mostly because of faulty memory). For instance, your official statement may have claimed that you got injured at approximately 4:00 PM, but your social media post says it was 2:00 PM.

This is enough to challenge your story and cast reasonable doubt about the true extent of your pain and suffering.

Here’s what your social media posts shouldn’t contain:

  • Any mention of an accident
  • A summary of the Accident
  • Remorse or regret of the Accident
  • Admitting fault
  • Discussing pain or recovery from it
  • Discussing damages done to you and your property
  • Talking about your attorney or insurance company
  • Discuss the defendant
  • Give updates about your legal proceedings
  • Talk about the settlement amount
  • Ranting furiously about your situation

Keep a tight lid on things. We know it’s hard – but it has to be done. If you need counsel or want to seek help, do so with over the phone or in-person with people you trust.

Don’t Post Media Related to the Accident

While it is vital to take photos of the Accident to bolster your case, you should never post them online. There’s no telling what the defendants may find in those photos and may discredit your claim outright.

Don’t Share Updates About Your Health Online

It doesn’t matter how many people comment, post, or message you about the Accident, do not respond online. This will be used by the insurance adjusters or the opposing counsel to reduce your payout. Even if your injuries are severe and debilitating, you’ll have good and bad days. And if you posted something related to those good days, you’ll give your insurance company more ammunition to refute your story.

Likewise, you also don’t want to exaggerate or complain too much about your injuries. That can also be twisted in court and used to minimize your settlement. It’s just better to provide updates to your friends and family in person.

Don’t Publish Recreational Activities

It’s tempting to publish photos of a fun vacation and athletic activities. But these pictures will be used to damage your case. A picture can tell a thousand words – but the opposing counsel will use it to tell an entire story – one that you won’t fancy at all.

The truth is, a single social media picture never reveals the full picture.

For instance, you may have had to use several painkillers to make it to your friend’s wedding anniversary, or this may have been the one day out of the 100 that you felt good enough to venture out. But to the judge and jury, this could indicate that you’re not entirely truthful about your version of the events and may not be suffering what is deemed ‘true pain and mental anguish.’

Make Sure to Regularly Check Posts You’re Tagged In

Ask your friends not to tag you in any post while your case is pending. This applies if you plan on going to a party or vacation. Facebook now makes it possible to review any pictures and posts you’re tagged in before they appear on your profile. However, these posts may still be viewed elsewhere on social media.

Ask your friends and family, gently, to remove these tags because it could harm your case.

A Court Could Order You to Show Social Media

Here’s something many people don’t anticipate: the court ordering you to show your social media. If the opposing counsel feels you’re not producing enough information, they may petition the court to order you to produce information from your social media accounts.

The court may order you to reactivate your deactivated accounts. And here’s the worst part – a subpoena could be used to retrieve your information from the third-party servers that store your social media accounts. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram may keep your data even if you’ve deleted it. And they will not hesitate to show information related to you if ordered by a court. This includes information that isn’t on the public record.

This is one reason why California personal injury lawyers advise against the use of social media while your case is pending. 

At Phoong Law Corp, we are the go-to law firm for personal injury cases in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas. We walk you through the entire process and fight for your rights to ensure you get the best possible outcome. You can count on us to cover your bases and maximize your damages and recovery.

Contact us to schedule a free consultation to learn about your legal options and potential compensation for your damages.

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