Can Facebook Destroy My Personal Injury Lawsuit
The prevalence of the Internet and 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 on 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 life 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 the insurance company 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 MySpace, you must be very careful about what you post on your site because it may later become evidence in your personal injury lawsuit. Some examples of how your social network site can hurt your personal injury case might include:
Seriousness of Injuries-Sometimes in a motor vehicle accident lawsuit there is little question of liability 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 activity that that undermines your injury claim. For example, a claim that you have serious back and neck pain might be compromised by pictures of you wakeboarding or snow skiing after your accident.
Shifting of Fault-Some people injured in motor vehicle accidents openly discuss the facts of their accident on a social media site. It is never a good idea to discuss your motor vehicle accident claim with anyone except for your attorney. However, it is an exceptionally bad idea to discuss your accident on your social media site where insurance adjusters may look for information that you provide that allows them to claim that you were at-fault and shift blame to you for your injuries.
Character Issues-Sometimes people will post information on their social media site that is simply unflattering or reflects poorly on their character. While this type of information is not always admissible in a personal injury lawsuit, it 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. The more a jury likes an accident victim and thinks the accident victim is a good person the greater the amount of damages that are typically awarded. Therefore, you must be careful about the things that you put on your social media site that may reflect badly on you if viewed by a judge or jury.
These are more than hypothetical examples because there are already cases of social media sites having a real impact on personal injury cases. 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 that were posted on her social media site 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 impairment of mental functioning 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, who claimed to have a serious back injury, saw her case compromised when the insurance company produced pictures from her social media page showing her doing the limbo on a cruise.
The bottom line is that if you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit resulting from a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall or any other accident resulting in personal injury, you should avoid using social media sites while your personal injury lawsuit is pending. You should also consider pulling your existing social media site down entirely. Even past information about you on your social media site may 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.