Pew Research Center reports that 65 percent of adults in America use a social media account, which means that most people involved in an personal injury case will likely have some form of internet profile. Social media accounts can provide privacy settings, private messages, and only have content that you post on them. This can give personal injury plaintiffs a false sense of security that their social media activities will not be used against them in the litigation. This is a dangerous and wrong assumption.
Image is Everything
If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you should assume that the insurance company or defendant will use any evidence available to reduce the compensation owed you. During the discovery process, the defendant will request access to any and all posts, videos, or pictures in your social media accounts to prove that your injury does not physically impair you and that you have not suffered any emotional distress. For example, if you have suffered a back injury that limits your ability to work, but you post a video of you hiking up a mountain with friends and enjoying life, the defendant will use this post to discredit any medical evidence of your injury and prove that it is not as severe as you claim.. A single post could be the difference between receiving full compensation or having the case thrown out of court.
So, it is in your best interest to completely avoid social media during the course of your personal injury case. If you do use social media, discuss it with your attorney and listen to his recommendations about what is and what is not appropriate.
Private Messages are not Always Private.
The Stored Communications Act states “a person or entity providing an electronic communication service to the public shall not knowingly divulge to any person or entity the contents of a communication while in electronic storage by that service.” i.e. any person or entity that provides digital communication (like Facebook and Twitter) cannot provide the contents of a private conversation to any outside entity. However, courts can sometimes override this rule and access any online communication that contains details that are relevant to the case. Any messages that are sent between you and your friends or family are subject to discovery and may be used to prove that your injuries are not as serious as you claim. Friends and family should be informed not to communicate with you via any form of social or online media to avoid conversations that can be used to hurt your case. An experienced personal attorney will inform you of the best method to communicate with him and others about matters concerning your case.
Any Alteration of a Profile can Lead to Severe Consequences
Never alter the privacy settings of an account or delete any posts when filing a personal injury case. Deleting posts or altering accounts could be viewed as destruction of evidence. Any information that is hidden or deleted can be recovered and may be used against you by the insurance company or defendant to reduce your compensation. If you suffered and injury in an accident, resist using or checking your social media account in any way until you have consulted with an experienced personal injury attorney.