In our ever technologically advancing world, more people than ever are connecting online, and they’re using more and more social media platforms to do so. The positive effects of these social media platforms on our interactions and communications with others are undeniable. But while social media plays a vital role in connecting family, friends, and colleagues across the globe, for those involved in a personal injury lawsuit, whether as a plaintiff or a defendant, these platforms can have wide-ranging negative consequences on their case.
Plaintiffs in a personal injury lawsuit, those who have been injured, can experience the most obvious and difficult setbacks as a result of their social media interactions. For instance, if a plaintiff claimed that he could no longer jog or play softball as a result of a car accident, but his Instagram photos show him doing one or both of those activities, proving his injuries will be incredibly difficult. It is also easy to see how a plaintiff’s claim for social isolation or depression could be severely damaged by a Facebook post recounting a fun night out with friends, or a five-star Yelp review describing a recent visit to one of his favorite fine dining restaurants.
For defendants, the effects of social media may generally be more subtle, but ultimately can still have a powerful negative effect. Consider an individual sued as a result of a car accident. If there is some question as to whether the defendant was at fault in the accident, any interaction on social media where the defendant described the wreck, or his actions leading up to it, could negatively affect the outcome of the case. What’s more is that this negative effect can be felt by the defendant as well as the insurance company that covers him.
For both plaintiff’s and defendant’s lawyers, social media has become an incredibly important evidence gathering tool in personal injury cases. If you think that both sides will not take the time to look into your posts, tweets, reviews, and photos, then you are mistaken. Even seemingly innocuous interactions with social media can have dire consequences for your case. It is important to remember that social media posts are generally in the public domain – meaning they are typically accessible by anyone. And without a doubt, the most effective way to avoid a potential negative impact on your case from social media is to simply refrain from using it until the lawsuit is complete. The opportunities for the parties to a personal injury suit to damage their case on social media – and in turn to damage their lawyers’ mental health – are numerous.
If you absolutely must continue to use your social media accounts during a case, consider taking the following precautions. First, consider applying the highest security protection settings that the platform allows to your profiles and posts. Second, seriously consider denying any new friend requests that you may receive through the duration of your suit. Third, consider limiting (or better yet fully restricting) your interaction with social media platforms that make your content available to anyone on the internet. Finally, don’t think that deleting your content during a lawsuit will be an effective way to help your case. Not only will your attorney advise you not to delete material from your accounts, but the inference you create by deleting it can be just as damaging to your case as the information itself would have been. Even if you take all of these steps, a court may still order you to turn over passwords, postings, photos, etc., that apply to or have been produced on your account.
Ultimately, a personal injury lawsuit does not have to end your interaction with others online, but the important consideration here is that you must be thoughtful and diligent about the content that you put out to the world. Remember, what you say online can, and likely will, be used against you in a court of law.