It's rare to find someone that is completely off the grid. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, it's become a daily routine for more than half of all Americans.
Social media connects, entertains, informs and inspires. But before you hit the ‘submit' button, consider this: your social media can actually hurt your accident case.
Impact on your claim
If you're seeking financial compensation for damages resulting from accident injuries, you can be certain of this: whomever the other party is that you're holding accountable, an insurance company, business or individual, also has attorneys who are looking out for their client's best interests. This means that they are waiting for you to make an innocent mistake and cause doubt to the life-altering seriousness of your injuries. If they are able to use your social media to cast doubt, you can bet they are more than happy to do so.
Just how can your social media habits hurt your injury case? Take a look at this hypothetical scenario to illustrate how social media can be used against you.
The slip and fall accident
While walking up the sidewalk leading to the entrance of the grocery store, a young woman of 23 years trips and falls, her right knee and wrist taking the brunt of the impact. The store's manager immediately rushes outside to asses the situation and notices that she is bleeding from a gash on her shin and her kneecap is scraped and red. The manager also sees her wrist is bruised and scratched, but there is no open wound. The woman is in shock but she graciously accepts the bandages and compresses that the store manager and associates offer her to keep her comfortable and minimize further blood loss. She files an accident report with the manager and declines an ambulance transport to the local hospital, but goes to the nearest urgent care clinic.
Over the next three days, the woman notices that the pain in her wrist and knee is increasing, as is swelling and bruising, causing her discomfort. She returns to the urgent care for a second assessment and is given pain medication as well as a referral to an orthopedic specialist for further diagnosis. The orthopedic specialist orders x-rays of her wrist and knee. She is placed into a sling to immobilize her right wrist and is given a knee brace as well. Due to the mounting medical bills and pain she is experiencing, she also visits a personal injury attorney who advises her that she has a case against the grocery store for failing to maintain the sidewalk and they begin the legal process.
Included in the woman's claim is that she can no longer enjoy activities like running, tennis, and holding her year-old baby. Additionally, she also claims that her work is suffering as well since she is not able to use her right hand to effectively type on the computer and write.
How insurance companies/investigators use social media
Over the course of the open case, the store's insurance company question just how serious the nature of her injuries are that her lifestyle is so greatly impacted. The insurance company investigates the woman online and finds that she has a Facebook and Instagram account that has been recently updated. They notice that she has posted photos of a new tennis racket and tennis outfit on Facebook. On Instagram is a photo of her crouching down, appearing to help her child learn to walk. In both photos she is smiling, appearing to enjoy her purchase and time with her family.
The insurance company takes screen shots and prints copies of these posts. They also look for any other recent photos friends of her have tagged her in. Unbeknownst to the woman, the store is building a case against her claims of disability and anguish that will cast doubt about the nature of her injuries. They question why she would purchase a tennis racket and tennis clothing if she was unable to play. They also wonder how she is able to bend her knee that far to reach her child.
With the evidence presented to her personal injury attorney, the woman and her attorney are now forced to re-evaluate their case and possibly accept a lower settlement value than could have been recovered.
Protect yourself on social media
The example above illustrated how social media can be used against a plaintiff in a slip and fall case, but can also be applied to auto accidents, workers' compensation claims and plaintiffs in animal bite claims.
If you have a pending personal injury matter and can't stay away from social media, follow these tips to protect yourself and your claim:
- Adjust your privacy settings to the maximum available
- Let your friends and family know that you are not willing to be included in photos
- Enable notifications for photos or posts you are tagged in and untag yourself if possible
One of the more controversial elements of a personal injury claim is the degree of impact on the injured person's life. It's a lesson in personal reputation management we hope you won't have to learn the hard way.