Millions of people use social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn to name a few. These sites allow the user to remain connected with family members, friends, colleagues, receive news information and up to date on events. With the increased use of social media sites, there has been a decrease in anonymity and privacy. Social media makes it easy for the user to share details about their life. However, if you are not careful, this sharing can be harmful to a personal injury claim.
It has become frequent practice for insurance companies and defense attorneys to search for a claimant’s social media profiles. The information they find can be used to exploit to people who are recovering from injuries. Social media is playing an increasing role in litigation involving personal injury cases.
A good rule is: think before you post.
Be aware of what you post online. Also, be aware that when you do post to your social media sites, you no longer retain possession or control of the information once it is posted. The terms and conditions of many social media sites state that the posted content becomes the property of their site or app. Therefore, once something is posted, a site may share or release the information with a third party such as an insurance company. Insurance companies, their adjusters, and defenses attorneys will use whatever they can find to discredit the claim of an injured person and attack their credibility. Often before a lawsuit is filed, insurance adjusters will search the internet and social media sites for photos, status updates, and anything else they can think of to show the person engaging in physically demanding activities. These activities can include hiking, skiing, snowboarding, dancing, or playing sports. Even comments or posts by other on a post can be used to humiliate or embarrass the injured individual.
Many social media sites save and archive the information that is posted. Therefore, a post about a sore neck or back made prior to the date of injury, might be used to challenge the injured party’s claim. After a lawsuit is filed, a defense attorney can obtain a court order to require the injured person to give up all of the archived data from their social media sites, this includes private messages.
What can you do?
These are some recommendations that we can make for our clients who use social media:
- Refrain from using social media while your claim is open. Some people call this “going dark”.
- Ask your family, friends, co-workers, and others to refrain from tagging you in photos or mentioning you in comments while your claim is active.
- Review and change your privacy settings. If your privacy settings are low, change them to the highest level where the only people that can see your information are the people you allow to see your information. Some examples of changes can be:
- Facebook – changing your search visibility option. Do not allow yourself to be found via public searches.
- Twitter – having a private profile.
- Instagram – having a locked profile.
- Do not post status updates, photos, or tweets about your injuries, treatment, how an injury occurred. This includes not posting pictures regarding your claim.
- Do not accept friend requests or allow someone to follow you that you do not know. It is not uncommon for a defense attorney to have someone not associated with a case gain access through friend requests or follows.
Finding the right balance of use of your social media, if you keep using it, is important. And remember, this will not be forever. Once your claim is resolved you can return to your prior social media settings if you would like.