How Social Media Can Affect Your Personal Injury Case
If you’re bringing suit in a personal injury claim, your social media accounts could work against you. Just one innocent post can give the insurance company grounds to deny your claim. Here’s how to keep that from happening.
Don’t Provide Evidence For the Insurance Company to Use Against You
Many people don’t realize that everything they’ve ever posted or responded to on social networking sites is still available and accessible. However, deleting or inactivating your accounts after an accident can make it seem like you have something to hide. A court might call it “spoliation of evidence.” That means destroying or suppressing evidence.
The insurance company can access your online accounts in search of potentially damaging information. It can then use that information to deny you compensation and invalidate your claim.
Insurance companies can subpoena information on your social networking accounts. That information is admissible in a court of law. Posts may be subject to discovery requests or a court order. That’s why most experienced personal injury attorneys will advise you to completely avoid social networking platforms for the duration of your case.
Here’s What Can Happen
You’re not the only one who can post yourself out of a well-deserved injury settlement. Anyone on your contacts list can mention you in a post, post on your wall or tag you in a photo that brings your injuries into question or contradicts your injuries altogether.
Data shared by others about you can damage your claim just as much as data you share about yourself. Insurance companies frequently use social networking posts to refute injury claims.
The big insurers can access your geolocation data and find out how you spend your days. These findings can then be used as evidence to convince a judge and jury that your claim is unjustified.
Insurance company investigators routinely monitor networking sites like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. These social platforms can all be rich sources of information that can later be used against you.
The insurance company can, if necessary, gain access to your private messages and deleted posts. They can subpoena information on your networking platforms. Federal law does not make social media posts private when they involve discovery in a personal injury lawsuit.
The more compensation you are asking for, the more likely your social networks are to come under the insurance company’s scrutiny. Their lawyers are paid to keep payouts as low as possible, after all.
What Do Insurance Companies Look For?
Insurance company investigators look for any evidence that your injuries might be bogus. They might also seek evidence of an inflated claim. Here are some of the things they look for when trying to challenge your claim:
- Do you routinely engage in social activities with others?
- How active are you physically and socially?
- What have you posted online about your accident or injury?
- What does your geolocation data reveal about your activities?
- Could your activities be making your injuries worse?
- Are your current activities in accordance with your doctor’s treatment plan?
For safety’s sake, an experienced personal injury lawyer will usually advise you to avoid social networking platforms altogether until your case is resolved. Besides the insurance company, your posts can be accessed by the police, the judge and the jury.
How Long Does It Take to Resolve a California Personal Injury Case?
Most California personal injury cases are resolved out of court within six months to one year. Claims that are relatively straightforward may be resolved sooner if the parties cooperate.
Some claims are settled out of court within weeks. Cases that go to trial might last for at least two years. These variables will usually make the process take longer:
- You are seeking substantial compensation.
- You have a complex case.
- Your injuries are severe.
- Your damages are extensive.
The length of your case also depends on how likely you are to settle for less than your due. Insurance companies can drag out a personal injury case for so long that many people cave and grab the first available offer just to get things over with.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will have the skills and expertise to extract the best possible settlement offer from the insurance company.
What If My Posts Support My Claim?
You might feel like you’re helping your case by posting photos of yourself in the hospital looking miserable. Unfortunately, you don’t know how the insurance company will interpret those posts or how they will be used to discredit your claim.
I Feel Lost Without My Networking Platforms
You can still communicate with friends and family via text messaging, phone calls and visits. The job of a personal injury attorney is to ensure that you receive all the damages you are entitled to.
By steering clear of networking platforms for just a few months, you can protect your investment in yourself. It’s like surrounding yourself with a protective shield so that you can heal properly and receive a full and fair settlement.
How Much Do You Value Your Personal Injury Claim?
Giving up your networking platforms, even for a short time, is no easy feat. However, you can still keep in touch with people the old-fashioned way. Just keep the status of your lawsuit to yourself, and ask others to honor your decision to briefly abstain from the digital community.
Ask yourself whether seeing a photo of your friend’s dinner is more important than a claim that’s worth thousands and thousands of dollars.
No one sets out to incriminate themselves on social networking platforms. However, even just scrolling through other people’s posts can trigger you into making a comment that you might later regret.
If your potential settlement amount is on the small side, you might decide that swearing off social networking platforms for any length of time is not a sacrifice you’re prepared to make. Nevertheless, you can still seek maximum compensation for your injuries.
Be Especially Cautious About Posting Right After the Accident
It only takes one careless post to discredit yourself. Many of us share personal information online without thinking twice. Although you can easily delete potentially incriminating posts, they can still be accessed and used as admissible evidence against you in a court of law.
In other words, whatever you post on social media can and will be used against you by the insurance company. All posts can potentially become public, and your privacy settings won’t protect you from slick and savvy insurance company lawyers.
Right after an accident occurs is when most people want to talk about it. If you have been seriously injured, you might still be in a state of shock and confusion. In such cases, it’s very easy to say the wrong thing.
Resist the urge to post about what happened and take a break from all networking platforms going forward. When you need to talk about the case, talk to your lawyer. Here’s how what you post on social networking platforms can be used against you:
- Information about your activities can be used to show that you’re not really injured.
- Comments about the accident can be interpreted as an admission of fault, even if you are not the at-fault party.
- Posting a lot on social networks can suggest that you’re not in emotional distress.
- If you post photos of yourself in which you don’t look injured, those photos could be used as evidence that you’re not injured.
- Posting at your usual rate might be seen as evidence that your injuries haven’t slowed you down.
- Cheerful and positive posts can be seen as evidence that you are not depressed. Therefore, you’re not entitled to compensation for emotional trauma.
- Commenting on your case publicly can forfeit your confidentiality protections. All social networking posts can potentially become public.
- Photos of you helping friends paint their house can be used as evidence that you are not unable to work. Therefore, you are not entitled to compensation for lost wages.
- Speaking ill of the insurance company can be construed as failure to negotiate in good faith.
- Posts about drinking and other high-risk activities may suggest that you caused the accident yourself.
Obviously, it’s a bad idea to add new friends while your case is ongoing. Especially avoid friend requests from insurance adjusters and insurance company employees. Monitor your accounts regularly to ensure that they contain nothing that could hurt your claim.
The two most important things you can do right after an accident are to call a personal injury lawyer and post nothing on your social networking sites.
At JT Legal Group, our consultations are free. If we decide to take on your case, we’ll handle everything involved in filing a claim and represent your interests in court. We will also provide guidance on what to do next. You owe us nothing unless you win, so you really have nothing to lose.