We post pictures of our kids to Facebook, share our thoughts on the latest news on Twitter, snap images of our meals to post to Instagram. We live in an age of social media, where in a matter of seconds, you can update friends, family and like-minded acquaintances or strangers on every detail of our lives. But when you're involved in a personal injury case, what you say can be used against you.
It may not seem fair that these seemingly harmless posts can be misconstrued and used against you, but that's the world we live in. The courts have repeatedly accepted social media posts into evidence, from people's carelessly worded rants about the accident to vacation photos that seem to prove the victim's injuries aren't what they claim they are.
The reality is, insurance companies and even some defendants have been and continue to be the targets of legitimate fraud, and in far too many of those cases, they've managed to avoid a fraudulent claim thanks to the perpetrator's social media posts, so they will be checking yours. Since we all try to put our best foot forward on social media, it's tempting to post things that belie how injured we are. Think before you post.
People have been denied their claims because they've posted pictures depicting aggressive physical activity. One woman lost her claim after suing a man who rear-ended her during which left her injured so badly she could no longer dance because she posted staged photos of her brother lifting and dancing with her.
What About Privacy?
The courts have repeatedly taken the position that anything you post on a social media profile is fair game. Setting your account to private does not change that because the purpose of social media is, inherently, to share information, even if it's only with a small group of people.
Post-Accident Social Media Limits
The best thing to do is to discuss your situation with your Kissimmee personal injury attorney, who can set some ground rules for your use of social media. But there are some general guidelines everyone should follow. Remember, these rules apply from the moment of the accident on. Insurance companies might use posts even if the case never goes to trial. And if you are required to go to court, it can be used there, too. It's easier to just avoid posting anything than it is to try to explain it later.
Really, we recommend just ceasing to use social media until your case is resolved, but if you absolutely cannot stay away, consider these tips. Even if you stay off social media, the first few tips should still be followed to ensure your phone or someone else doesn’t accidentally compromise you.
- If your phone or other device automatically checks you in or posts your location when you go somewhere, turn off that feature, and don't use it on purpose.
- Disable any apps that automatically post photos or other personal details to social media (photos, videos, things you're reading or trying, etc.).
- Don't allow yourself to be tagged in photos or check-ins and ask friends not to post photos of you (even without tagging you), even if the pictures are old.
- Double-check your privacy settings to make absolutely certain no one can see what you post (but assume they can even then).
- Block or unfriend anyone who may have a stake in the case or anyone who knows someone who does (you don't know what they might repost).
- Consider blocking or unfriending anyone you don't know personally.
- Do not post any details of your medical diagnosis or treatment (no matter how vague).
- Do not post any details about what happened during the accident (from what would be your testimony or the testimony of witnesses).
- Do not post the details of any conversations you've had with your attorney.
- Do not post about your frustrations with (or perceived victories over) the case, the defendant, the defendant's lawyer or the defendant's insurance company.
- Do not post about details of any phone or personal conversations, emails or other communications involving the case.
- Limit the number of posts you make.
- Avoid happy emoticons and remove your birthday from your profile (that's the most common way people who don't know you well know to wish you one).
- Be wary of new friend requests or follows, and block anyone you can't verify is someone you personally know.
- Always remember that seemingly innocent details can be used against you — a pic of you passing a beer to a friend the defense claims proves you aren't taking the types of pain killers associated with that injury, a smile flashed for the camera because of social conventions that the defense claims proves you aren't in emotional distress, and more.
Getting Case-Specific Social Media Advice
If you've been involved in an accident in Kissimmee, Florida, and want more information on using social media, contact us.
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