Social Media and your Injury Claim
Social Media can ruin your injury claim
Whether you like or not, Social Media has become an integral part of our culture. While it’s a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, you need to be aware of the risks—particularly in regard to your insurance claims and legal cases. Whenever a client hires us to represent them in their accident or workers’ compensation claim, we always explain how much damage even a seemingly simple post can do to their case. Defense attorneys, insurance companies, and judges routinely search social media sites to discover harmful information regarding you and your claim. A good rule-of-thumb is if you’ve posted something online, expect to be cross-examined about it in court.
Anything you post—even if you believe it to be completely irrelevant to your case—could end up being extremely harmful. Don’t post anything on social media related to your case, the accident, your injuries, your state of mind, or even what you’ve recently been doing. In fact, if you are pursuing an insurance claim, we strongly advise that you stop posting on social media sites until the conclusion of your claim or lawsuit. Defense attorneys and insurance companies are quite savvy; they frequently turn posts as simple as you attending a family picnic into key pieces of evidence demonstrating your capabilities following an accident. Regardless of your innocent intentions, anything you post can—and will—be used against you.
In Pennsylvania, if the defense can demonstrate that your profile has information that may be relevant to your case, the court can grant the defense access to your private account, even if it is “locked down” with the maximum privacy settings. There may even be a time when a judge orders you to give the defense your Facebook password. All of your posts, pictures, videos, etc., and even your private messages, can potentially be used against you in open court.
Do Not Delete Anything from your Account
Even though information you have already posted could very well be harmful to your claim, if you anticipate litigation, it is illegal for you to now delete it. Bringing a legal claim against another individual creates a duty to preserve any and all evidence, regardless of whom it favors. Deleting items from your social media page can be classified as the destruction of evidence, otherwise known as “spoliation.” The penalties for destroying evidence are very serious and can lead to you losing your case and being fined by the court.
What you can do
While you are not allowed to delete or deactivate your accounts or posts, you can and should adjust the privacy options to their most restrictive settings, allowing access to only close, trusted friends that you personally know.
To briefly summarize, if you anticipate making an insurance claim, 1) Stop posting on social media websites; 2) Do not delete any information whatsoever; and 3) Immediately set all of your accounts to their most restrictive privacy settings, forbidding access to people whom you do not personally know and trust. Most importantly though, get a lawyer. Not only will we ensure your legal rights are protected—we can keep you from being your own worst enemy.