Facebook is the largest social network with more than 2.7 billion monthly active users worldwide as of June 2020. Instagram will reach 112.5 million users in the U.S. this year, and it’s expected that the network will reach 117.2 million U.S. users in 2021.
That’s a lot of information. Your personal information is probably part of those numbers. If you allow your account to be viewed by anyone, anyone can view your data. That includes defense attorneys and insurance investigators. After a motor vehicle crash or in a medical malpractice case, they will assign a paralegal or law student to scour the Internet for damaging information about an injured person.
They may find—and they often do—a person claiming he or she was severely injured, but who posts on social media about the completed home improvement project they just finished all by themselves… or shots of them bungee jumping on vacation in Costa Rica. Any of this type information can be used as evidence against a plaintiff in a personal injury case who is seeking compensation for their pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages, physical impairment, and other “injury” from the accident or medical mistake.
How do you think this social media evidence will go over with a jury?
Many of us “live” on social media. We check and post to these sites several times a day (or an hour!).
And if you’ve been in an accident or suffered at injury during a medical procedure, you’ll have concerned friends and family. To let them all know you’re okay, you might post a selfie of you in a setting that provides ammunition to the other side in your case to suggest that your injuries really aren’t as severe as you claim. Even if it’s an innocent “I’m doing great!” it can be misrepresented by opposing counsel or by the insurance company to help them build their defense.
Remember that in a personal injury claim, a victim is required to show a real injury—one that had a significant negative impact on his or her life. As a victim, the plaintiff will try to show the jury that compensation is needed to help in their physical, emotional, and financial recovery. Victims will make statements in court that describe the extent of their injuries that are important to the outcome. These claims usually are supported by physicians, expert witnesses, medical reports, family, and other evidence to help substantiate the injuries to the victim.
The opposing counsel and insurance company will seek evidence to dispute those claims, including a search of the victim’s social media pages. The picture of you tearing out cabinets to remodel your kitchen or on a Costa Rican bridge about to bungee jump to a river 500 feet below would be an extremely damaging—perhaps even a fatal blow to your case.
This type of social media evidence can also be damaging to a claim for emotional injuries. If you claim to have suffered depression or loss of enjoyment after an accident, the posts from friends congratulating you in the photo of your kitchen remodel or a shot of you and your pals toasting your bungee jump at a bar in Puerto Limón, complete with ear-to-ear grins—really doesn’t show how devastated you’ve been because of your injury.
The opposing side will use anything they find on your social media pages to dispute and create doubt about your claim. An innocuous post can be used out of context or manipulated by the defense to show that you really haven’t suffered as a result of the accident.
You’re probably getting the picture by now. If you’ve been injured in an accident or in medical treatment and suffered a serious injury, you must protect your rights. You can do that by being smart with social media.
The attorneys at Buchanan Firm suggest these actions to protect yourself and your loved ones:
Mistakes with social media can have a significant effect on any possible negotiated settlement or jury award. The best thing to do is stay off these sites.
If you’ve suffered injuries in an accident, be extremely cautious when using social media.
Remember, nothing is really private. For example, the biggest data breach on record was in 2014 when 3.5 billion Yahoo records were accessed by hackers. Last year, Facebook allowed 540 million records to become public due to poor security. And FriendFinder saw 412 million accounts hacked in in 2016. So in addition, to merely setting your accounts to be accessible by the public, your information may be exposed in a data breach.
Plus, on the Internet, nothing is really ever truly “gone.” There are ways to bring photos and posts back from the grave, so when you post on social media, you must assume it’s out there on the World Wide Web to stay. Good reasons to limit what you share.
For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Michigan, contact Buchanan Firm. Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home, or in the hospital to accommodate your needs.