We humans behave strangely when we think we’re invisible. We’ve all seen the perfectly groomed woman in the car next to us powdering her nose and examining her smile at the stop light. We’ve also seen people from all stations of life adjust their underclothing while walking across a busy parking lot as if there were not another soul on the planet who might observe them This odd notion that we cannot be seen afflicts each of us from time to time. It’s particularly prevalent now that online social media gives us unlimited access to “anonymity.” Or so we choose to imagine.
The fact is, you’re not invisible even – perhaps especially – on social media.
If you’ve been the victim of an accident and are pursuing a personal injury case, you could be stacking the deck against yourself. If you use any of the popular online social networking portals to stay in touch with family and friends, you could be doing serious harm to your ability to recover damages from your claim.
The sheer size of the virtual world ought to be enough to make us a bit cautious about what we say online. Yet we post intimate details of our lives on Facebook. We share pictures and videos meant for friends and loved ones on Instagram, forgetting somehow that we are exposing our private lives to a planet full of people we don’t know and shouldn’t trust.
Not only can posting on social media be dangerous in terms of your physical safety and family security, it can be downright costly when it comes to a pending personal injury claim.
Here we’ve compiled a list of Social Media Do’s and Don’ts to keep you from compromising yourself and your personal injury claim.
Don’t discuss your claim –online or anywhere else without your lawyer’s blessing.
Your personal injury lawyer will caution you not to discuss your claim with outsiders or online. If you are among the many victims that don’t retain an attorney to represent them from the beginning, you might be surprised to learn that your claims, pictures of the accident, or your own comments and social media posts about your case or your social life can be used against you.
Don’t talk to strangers.
Mom told you this when you were little and her wisdom still applies. In the world of social media, you may think that you are only reaching a limited number of friends you’ve carefully selected, but what you post on social media can be available to countless others.
If you look at your friends list, you will probably find more than a few names you really don’t know. They may actually be friends of friends who enjoy your posts, but they can just as easily be employed by the insurance company or the defendant in your accident claim.
Even if there isn’t a spy online watching you, your circle is much wider than you may have thought. It’s not just your own friends, but their friends and their friends’ friends who can also find their way into your inner circle by way of sharing. An innocent comment about your upcoming vacation to the Bahamas can serve to notify private investigators and insurance company attorneys that your injured back – the one you got when their client rear-ended you last year – may be in for some strenuous activity. You don’t have to post pictures of you parasailing to create doubts about the severity of your injuries. The insurance company may even point to your long walk on the beach as evidence that you are “fine.”
Do suspend your social media use.
Oh, we know. This sounds a bit like deliberately stranding yourself on a desert island. These days, many depend upon online accounts for companionship and social interaction. Unfortunately, nothing you say online is protected. Even when you use all the privacy settings available today, there is no guarantee that unfriendly others won’t gain access.
Your safest bet is to stay away from online media posts altogether.
Don’t delete posts about your claim.
If you’ve already made online comments about your accident, do not attempt to delete them. To eliminate evidence about a court proceeding can be called “spoliation of evidence,” and work against you. Destroying evidence puts you in the position of seeming to have “something to hide.”
Do use telephone calls but be careful about texting.
Use the telephone to update your friends and loved ones about your accident and your recovery. Telephone calls are protected by law – your social media posts are not, and your text messages will be saved by your mobile phone company and can be subpoenaed by the insurance defense team. This means that if you send an innocent update by text message or online to your circle of family and friends saying that you are “just fine” following your accident (even if you are not just fine), it can certainly end up as testimony in your personal injury claim. Anything you say or post online or in a text message is fair game.
Don’t underestimate your opponents.
A resourceful insurance company investigator can worm his way into your social media life and make your innocent comments into claim killers.
From your inner circle, these individuals can help themselves to the bonanza of personal information you post online and use it against you. A picture of you playing catch with your children in the back yard or an innocent comment about how well your physical therapy is going can easily be used to create questions about the legitimacy of your claim.
Don’t accept photo tags.
You don’t have to be the one posting damning photos. A friend can post a picture of you on the trampoline, and even though it’s an old image taken long before your accident, if you are tagged in it the image could show up in court and muddy the waters regarding your current condition.
Keeping an online journal or blog can be cathartic and many of us do it. Beware, though, about your subject matter. In the course of relaying the perfect recipe for Jam Thumbprint Cookies you can easily reveal that your superhuman stamina allows you to bake all afternoon in spite of the terrible car wreck that broke your foot. In a courtroom, such revelations can undermine your hope for an appropriate settlement.
Another irresistible feature of the internet is the capacity it has for delivering a vast audience to read and appreciate your frustrations. When an injury claim becomes bogged down or appears to be going badly, it’s tempting to tell the world what’s wrong with guy or gal who crashed into you, or what’s wrong the justice system or about the evils of big insurance companies. Doing this via the internet, however, can seriously impair your ability to recover any or all of what you’ve lost since doing so also can show you in an unfavorable light.
Do confide in your lawyer.
Scientists tell us that part of healing from a traumatic event is talking about the details. It’s perfectly natural to want to discuss your accident – talking about the way the accident has impacted your life is normal and helpful. What isn’t helpful, though, is discussing the trauma with somebody whose loyalties lie with somebody other than you.
When you hire an attorney to handle your personal injury claim, you have entered into an arrangement where anything you say is privileged and private. Your lawyer is always on your side and completely committed to your best interests. Your confidential advocate will use what you say to build a case that will potentially result in a settlement that makes you “whole” again. That system works very well as long as you don’t sabotage your case by revealing privileged information.
It is in your best interest to retain an attorney as soon as possible after your accident. Once you’ve consulted with a specialist about your accident and his/her team reviews the facts and agrees to represent you, you may rest assured that you’ve taken the best first step.
From then on, your most important job is to do precisely what your legal team asks you to do. That will, no doubt, include carefully protecting your claim your from exposure on social media. This isn’t a ‘forever’ kind of isolation. It will be necessary only for as long as it takes to settle your claim successfully or, if necessary, complete the trial.
The experienced legal team at the Millar Law Firm is entirely focused on the successful settlements and trials of personal injury claims like yours. Our expertise is helping our clients to heal and recover. Every day we are turning our clients’ injury claims into fair settlements that restore what they’ve lost. Call our office today for a free and confidential case evaluation.
You can trust the Millar Law Firm to advocate for you.