The prevalence of the Internet and the popularity of social network sites has dramatically changed the way people live their lives. It was not so long ago that privacy was very important to people and the notion of allowing people to monitor every aspect of a person’s life would have been viewed as an unreasonable intrusion of a person’s privacy. Social networks have changed all that, so now people live their lives in full view of virtual strangers often providing extensive details about every aspect of their lives and daily activities. This choice to live one’s life in full view of anyone who will watch and listen can create a serious problem if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and need to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Insurance companies often hire investigators to help them develop negative information about an injury victim that insurers may use to their advantage in negotiations or at trial. These investigators regularly search social network sites for information that can be used when defending a personal injury lawsuit. If you have a social network page on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site, you must be very careful about what you post because it may later become evidence in your personal injury lawsuit. Some examples of how a social media post could harm your injury claim have been provided below.
Seriousness of Injuries: Sometimes the question of liability will be fairly clear in an auto accident injury case, so the insurance company strategy is simply to contest the extent of your injuries and the appropriate measure of damages. Insurance company investigators may search your social network site for pictures that show you engaged in recreational activities that undermine your injury claim. A claim that you have serious back and neck pain, for example, might be compromised by pictures of you wakeboarding or snow skiing after your accident.
Shifting of Fault: Some people injured in car accidents openly discuss the facts of their accident on a social media site. Generally, you should not discuss your motor vehicle accident claim with anyone except your attorney. Discussing your accident on a social media site where insurance investigators might look for information constitutes an especially bad idea. The insurance company may look for information that allows it to claim that you were at-fault and shift blame to you for any injuries.
Character Issues: Sometimes people inadvertently post information on their social media site that is unflattering or reflects poorly on their character. While this type of information is not always admissible in a personal injury lawsuit, such material can be damaging if the insurance company attorneys are able to get the information before a judge or jury. There is no science to the total amount of damages that are awarded in a personal injury lawsuit. Juries tend to award more damages if they like an accident victim and thinks he or she is a good person. Therefore, injury victims must be careful about the impression material posted on a social media site will have on a judge or jury.
The risk of harm to a person injury case caused by social media postings amount to more than a theoretical problem. Examples already exist of such cases throughout the country. An idea of how social media sites have already affected the outcome of personal injury cases is reflected in the examples below:
Example 1: A judge permitted evidence showing pictures of a woman dancing in a personal injury lawsuit claiming that she was disabled.
Example 2: An accident victim who claimed to have suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting in significant mental impairment was ordered by a judge to provide information regarding the frequency and nature of the victim’s activity on social media websites.
Example 3: A women claiming a serious back injury saw her case compromised when the insurance company produced pictures showing her doing the limbo on a cruise.
The bottom line is that if you are involved in an accident-related injury claim or lawsuit, you should avoid using social media sites while your personal injury lawsuit is pending. At the very least, you should discuss any potential social media activity with your personal injury lawyer. Even information predating your claim might be used by the insurance adjuster to compromise your claim. If you insist on maintaining a social media site, you should carefully monitor your security settings and not engage in conversations with those who you do not personally know on your social media site. At the very least, you should discuss any potential social media activity with one of our personal injury lawyers.
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