Social media has become integral to our daily lives. It connects us to friends, family, and communities from around the world. With it, we share our triumphs and tribulations, posting updates about everything from what we had for breakfast to our latest adventures.
In today’s digital age, social media can profoundly affect legal matters – particularly personal injury cases. The pictures you post, the comments you make, and even the status updates you share can all be used against you.
How can this seemingly innocent online activity impact your personal injury case? And more importantly, how can you protect yourself from social media’s potential pitfalls?
Use Extreme Caution: Social Media Risks Your Case
Social media usage has revolutionized how we communicate, share information, and connect with others. With millions of people sharing their thoughts, experiences, and photos online, many individuals fail to realize that these seemingly innocent posts can have a significant legal impact.
Insurance adjusters and defense attorneys are known for scouring platforms for any evidence that can be used against the victim. Even a seemingly harmless post can be misconstrued or used to discredit your claim.
Words have power, especially within the context of a legal battle. Comments can easily be taken out of context and used against you in court. Even posting photos of time spent with friends can be perceived negatively by opposing counsel.
How Opposing Parties Use Social Media Posts as Evidence
Opposing parties in a personal injury case are always looking for any information that can be levied against you. With the prevalence of social media usage today, the defense has even more avenues now to gather evidence against you.
Here are a few ways in which the liable party’s defense team may use social media against you.
Looking for inconsistencies in your claim
The opposing side may use your social media posts to look for “holes in your story.”
For example, imagine you claim to have suffered severe injuries due to a slip-and-fall accident. What would happen if, during your ongoing claim, you post pictures of yourself engaging in physical activities? Those photos could undermine your credibility and potentially weaken your case.
The defense may also cast doubt on your injury claim if you appear happy or frequently use social media. They may argue that you must not be experiencing severe pain or limitations if you feel well enough to engage online.
Searching for any indication that you were partially at fault
The defense counsel or insurance adjusters will search for anything that hurts your claim. They want to prove you share liability for causing the accident.
The opposing side will look for evidence that you engaged in risky behavior leading up to the incident. Even innocent-seeming photos taken prior to an accident could be used against you.
Protecting Your Personal Injury Case in the Digital Age
It cannot be stressed enough how essential it is for you to manage your social media presence during an ongoing case – carefully.
To safeguard your personal injury claim:
- Review all your existing connections. Ensure that only close friends and family have access to your profile. Unfollow social media users you don’t know, especially if they connect with you after you file your personal injury claim.
- Disable location tracking. Prevent others from knowing where you are by turning off location services for specific apps.
- Be cautious when accepting friend requests. Do not accept new friend requests unless it is with family or people you know and trust.
- Regularly monitor tagged photos. Untag yourself from other people’s posts, especially if the post may contradict or undermine your claim.
- Set up alerts for suspicious activity. Some social media platforms offer the option to receive notifications when someone logs into your account from a new device or location.
To avoid hurting your personal injury case, here are additional points you should consider.
Think before you post online
Before sharing anything on social media, ask yourself whether it could be misinterpreted or used against you by the opposing party or insurance adjusters. To protect the outcome of your case, avoid posting content related to the accident entirely.
It may be tempting to vent about frustrations or post updates about progress. But make no mistake: The defense attorneys or insurance adjusters can easily leverage posts about your accident.
Additionally, do not post about activities that could give the impression that you are not injured. Avoid posting physical activities, like sports events or outings where mobility would typically be limited due to injuries sustained.
Be mindful of how your words may come across
Be mindful of how the opposition could twist certain words or phrases. Sometimes, sarcasm or jokes can easily be misunderstood by others. What may seem harmless or funny to you could potentially jeopardize the credibility of your claims if taken out of context.
When in doubt, seek legal advice before sharing any information about your accident. Communicate openly with your personal injury lawyer regarding any concerns you have about a social media post.
Adjust your privacy settings on all platforms
Change your account to private so that only trusted individuals can view your content. By adjusting privacy settings on all your platforms, you can limit access to your personal information during this critical time.
Temporarily deactivate your social media accounts until your claim is fully resolved
Adjusting your privacy settings alone may not provide sufficient protection against prying eyes looking for damaging evidence. There are ways for opposing parties to access your information, and they may go to great lengths to gather evidence against you.
Even if you have strict privacy settings enabled, there is still a chance that someone within your network could share or screenshot something detrimental without your knowledge.
How the Other Party’s Social Media Can Impact Your Case
Do you have texts, status updates, comments, or messages between you and the at-fault party? Your digital conversations may reveal key details about the defendant’s actions or negligence leading up to the incident.
For example, imagine you were involved in a slip-and-fall accident caused by the other party’s negligence. Before the incident, you told the at-fault party through text messages or social media comments about the condition of their premises. Those conversations can establish liability and prove the defendant knew of the dangerous situation in advance.
Check-ins and location data are also significant pieces of evidence that can help establish where the accident occurred and who was present at the time.
For example, suppose the other party shared being at a bar prior to hitting your car. Did drinking contribute to the accident? A skilled attorney could use the information shared to strengthen your case and establish liability.
What If the Defendant Posts Something That Can Help Your Case?
If you come across any social media content that could help your case, do not engage with it directly. Instead, you should follow these steps.
Take screenshots or save the evidence
If you identify relevant information on social media platforms, such as posts, comments, or photos that support your case, capture them as soon as possible. This will ensure that the evidence is preserved even if the posts are later deleted or modified.
Inform your legal team
Share any findings with your personal injury attorney immediately. He or she can evaluate whether this evidence helps your case. If it is useful, he or she will guide you on how best to handle this information within the confines of privacy laws.
Leave the investigation to the professionals
While it might be tempting to dig deeper into someone’s online presence, it is best to refrain from doing so without guidance from your legal team. Unintentional misinterpretation of content or violating privacy laws could negatively impact your case.
Deleting or Modifying Online Posts Can Have Serious Legal Consequences
When your case goes to court, you may think deleting or modifying your social media posts is a good idea. After all, you want to protect yourself and give your case a fair chance of success. However, courts take the intentional destruction of evidence very seriously. The court may impose severe penalties if they find out that you have tampered with or deleted relevant social media posts.
Even if you think deleting certain posts will benefit your case, there may be ways for the opposing party to retrieve this information. The defense can even use data recovery methods or obtain archived data from third parties. Therefore, attempting to hide or manipulate evidence on social media is never advisable.
Instead of trying to cover up previous statements or actions on social media, discuss any concerns with your legal team. They will help you navigate difficult aspects of your case. They can also guide you as to what should and should not be shared online during ongoing litigation.
Legal Advisors Who Care About the Success of Your Case
The world we live in and the technology we use continue to evolve. Nowadays, social media plays an increasing role as evidence in legal battles. Like a double-edged sword, digital media can hurt or help your case, depending on how it is used.
At Kiley Law Group, we know how to handle cases with unique challenges, such as using social media evidence in court. We understand that social media may be an important part of your life.
We also know how social media content can negatively affect your case if misinterpreted by opposing parties. That is why, when you hire us, we will guide you through the potential dangers of using social media with an ongoing case.
Our attorneys have successfully helped injured clients across Massachusetts and New Hampshire navigate complex legal matters. Why not schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and social media best practices to protect your interests? Contact us to get started.