How Social Media Can Derail Your Personal Injury Case
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Social media is a great tool for connecting with others. It allows people to keep in touch with family and friends over great distances. It has also been a boon for job seekers and businesses alike, creating opportunities by helping connect those looking for work with employers as well as businesses with consumers. Social media can even help you find old schoolmates or friends with whom you have not been in touch for years or even decades.
Yet social media can also be the source of incredible headaches. For example, it can remind you why you didn’t keep in touch with a lot of those people with whom you went to high school. Or it can expose people – especially those who are younger or more vulnerable – to cyberbullying. In some cases, an errant social media post may even cost you a job. And social media can even wreck your personal injury case.
Examples of Disrupted Personal Injury Cases
Insurance companies’ defense lawyers can be quite savvy, and will not think twice about using something they see on one of your social media accounts to try to reduce or keep from paying out damages on an injury claim. Even an innocuous posting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr, Tik Tok or other social media platforms can spell doom for a personal injury case.
Consider these cases:
- In 2009, a wrongful death case in Maine was decided against the plaintiff because of his social media postings. One juror emailed the plaintiff’s attorneys after the case had been decided, stating that the reason jurors did not find in the plaintiff’s favor was because of social media posts that advocated binge drinking, along with the use of psychedelic mushrooms and recreational cannabis. The email admonished the plaintiff’s legal representatives for not addressing these posts prior to trial.
- In a Canadian case in the early 2000s, an 18-year-old plaintiff sued a man who rear-ended a car in which she was riding. She sued for chronic pain caused by the accident, which she stated resulted in the loss of enjoyment of life as, according to the claim, she could no longer dance or do other things physically as she had before the accident. The insurance company’s lawyers gained access to a photo on her Facebook account that contradicted these claims, and they got an order from the court to allow them to peruse more of the photos she had on her account. Because of this, she was not awarded for having lost enjoyment of life.
- In a Florida case, a plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Target after a slip and fall accident, which she claimed resulted in permanent injuries. During discovery, Target requested copies or screenshots of photographs the plaintiff posted on Facebook for two years before the accident until the present. Though the plaintiff appealed based on a privacy clause in Florida’s constitution, Target was allowed access to her Facebook photos.
What is a Personal Injury Case?
While these cases show just a couple of different types of personal injury claims, the way in which someone can be injured by another party is broad. Personal injury cases fall under the category of what is called tort law, where plaintiffs – in this case also known as claimants – can claim damages in civil cases for losses or harm done to them, though this does not include cases that concern breached contracts.
Personal injury lawyers act on behalf of plaintiffs, seeking compensation for the wrongful conduct that caused harm to their clients, either due to negligence or an intentional act. Yet just because someone is harmed, that does not mean an injured party can pursue a valid personal injury claim. This requires that the party who caused the injury is also seen as legally responsible. Once liability has been determined, a personal injury case can move forward.
Most often insurance companies will informally settle personal injury cases prior to the filing of a lawsuit. These settlements involve negotiations between those personally involved in the dispute, their attorneys and the defendant’s insurance company. An agreement is written up where both parties agree to waive further action, resolving the matter with an agreed-upon monetary payment.
A formal lawsuit is filed in a personal injury case if the defendant refuses to negotiate or negotiations fail to reach an agreeable solution for the involved parties. It entails the plaintiff – in this case, a private individual – filing a civil complaint, usually with assistance from a personal injury lawyer, against the defendant, who can be another person, corporation, business or government entity.
Should a personal injury case reach the courtroom, the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer seeks to prove the defendant’s liability and fault in causing harm to the plaintiff. If the court finds in the plaintiff’s favor a judgment will be awarded. Once proven, the responsible party’s insurer will normally pay a monetary award to help for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and other losses experienced by the defendant, though awards – especially larger ones – are sometimes appealed.
What to Do & What Not to Do
Of course, social media isn’t the only way responsible parties and their insurers try to keep from paying out damages on personal injury cases. But it has become an easy way in which defendants and their insurance companies’ attorneys find ways in which to derail personal injury cases. Remember that anything said online can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- If you’re involved in a personal injury case, it’s important to keep these things in mind:
- If you have a blog, especially one that involves personal reflections on your life, stop writing it.
- Suspending social media accounts will prevent the defense from accessing information in this manner.
- For those who do not wish to close their Facebook or other accounts, it’s best to adjust privacy settings so those you do not know do not have access to your posts.
- Be extremely careful with what photos you post, as even seemingly innocuous ones could incriminate you.
- Monitor posts or photos in which you are tagged, either untagging yourself or asking the person who post them to delete them immediately.
- Ensure that nothing posted on your wall, whether posted by yourself or friends, could contradict claims made in your personal injury case.
- When posting status updates, even something as simple as an emoji smiley face can be used against you.
- When commenting on others’ photos or statuses, remember that your comments can be used against you.
Though Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs are what defendants’ attorneys mainly target, other platforms such as YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Tumblr can provide information that may be used against you to hurt your personal injury case. Always keep in mind whether the information you share could be used as evidence. If you are in doubt about a post, it is probably a good idea not to share it.
Much about what is posted gets down to optics. Even if a jury believes your side of the story, a Tik Tok video of you dancing and having a good time in the moment can raise doubts about how seriously an injury affects your life. It creates an unnecessary risk that can lead to an unfavorable judgment in your personal injury case.
How the Laufer Law Group Can Help
While it is a good idea not to post about your personal injury case on social media, it is also important that you speak to a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer about your claim. For those who have been injured in an accident and think another party may be responsible, the Laufer Law Group can help. Laufer Law has considerable experience in various types of personal injury cases.
Laufer Law has litigated personal injury claims that include:
- Automobile accidents
- Brain injuries
- Catastrophic injuries
- Construction accidents
- Exposure to toxic or dangerous chemicals
- Medical malpractice
- Police brutality
- Toxic mold
- Tripping, slipping and falling accidents
- Wrongful death
Remember too that if you are considering pursuing a personal injury case that every claim is different and that the law sets time limits on when you can file claims. If you think you may have a personal injury claim, contact the Laufer Law Group to provide you with the care, knowledge and experience needed to navigate the process.
Laufer Law Group Can Help You.
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