While you may know not to verbalize anything that can damage your personal injury case, did you know that what you post on social media can also harm your results? Social media has become an integral part of court proceedings. With how deeply social media has rooted itself into everyday life, finding ways to use your social media content to harm your case is easier than ever. Here’s how it can happen and how you can protect yourself.
I’m Skeptical. Can Social Media Be Used Against Me?
Yes. Anything you post on social media, from photos to videos, can harm your personal injury case. The “Rules of Civil Procedure” state that each party is to disclose all documents related to the case, including electronic documents and social media pages, even if they’re set to private. To further contribute to this issue, you are not able to pick and omit what you choose to disclose. This means that any social media posts you made in the distant or near past that can potentially harm your claim may be required to be disclosed in your case.
What About Posts Made By Friends?
Posts made by your friends can be used to harm your personal injury case, even if the situation seems entirely innocent for you.
For example, consider if you were in a car accident and suffered a neck injury as a result. Due to your neck injury, you usually have trouble using your full range of movement. A few months down the line, you have one good day where your neck injury isn’t hurting as much as usual, so you decide to go out and do some light dancing with your friends and family. Your friend snaps a photo of you dancing and puts it up on social media.
Despite how innocent the situation may seem to be from your perspective, the attorney on the opposing side can still use your friend’s post against you. They can argue that you’re not experiencing any neck pain at all, or at least that the pain was greatly exaggerated. While it may be true that the social media post doesn’t encompass your usual experience with neck pain, that snapshot of a single, isolated incident can still significantly damage your case in the eyes of the judge or jury.
Can the Comments I Make Be Used Against Me?
Potentially. Since comments are usually publicly accessible, they can be seen by anyone, including the legal team on the other side. To stay on the safe side, refrain from commenting on other people’s social media posts.
Should I Delete All My Social Media Content?
Deleting everything, or “cleaning up” your social media posts, is one of the worst things you can do. Deleting your social media can lead to you being sanctioned, as was the case of a woman named Helen Painter. After the court discovered that Painter had “scrubbed” her Facebook page to strengthen her case, the court ordered the jury to infer that her deleted posts would have undermined her case.
While there are some exceptions to the rule, (in Florida, for example, lawyers can ethically advise clients to increase their social media security settings, hiding their content from the public eye,) these exceptions are not set in stone. Before doing anything with your social media accounts, it’s best to consult with a lawyer.
How Can I Protect Myself?
To protect yourself, it may best to fully avoid using social media for the duration of your personal injury claim. If you wish to continue using social media, avoid taking photos or creating videos of yourself, and stay away from commenting on other social media accounts. If a friend tags you in a picture, request for the tag to be removed.
Beyond these basic steps, it’s important to not talk about the legal proceedings themselves or especially about settlement details over social media. It’s best to assume that the other side will be reading your posts. Your social media sharing of the legal proceedings can give them valuable insights that can be used against you. This also applies to cases where you’re posting on social media sites anonymously. Be aware that there are tools available to track your digital footprint.
Furthermore, don’t use the check-in feature that’s available on certain social media platforms for the duration of your personal injury claim. Publicly showing that you’ve checked in to the gym, for example, even if you didn’t engage in any physical exercise, can damage your personal injury claim.
Carefully look over new friend requests before accepting them. If you do not recognize the person sending you the friend request, it could potentially be someone on the other side trying to gain access to your social media information. It’s always better to remain on the side of caution.
Social Media: Proceed With Caution
Although social media has become a part of everyday life, it’s essential to be prudent with it while your personal injury lawsuit is in progress. Courts will allow social media posts to be used as evidence, whether they’re made by yourself or by your friends. Attempting to delete your social media presence can be detrimental to your case as well. The best way to protect yourself is to limit the amount of time you spend on social media and be careful about what you post. Consult with an expert personal injury lawyer as soon as you’re involved in an incident so you can receive insights like these and more.