Believe it or not, the first thing some people do after they have been involved in an accident is text their friends or update their Facebook statuses. This can come back to hurt them if they are forced to file a lawsuit after pre-litigation settlement negotiations fail. Some messages people send through cell phones or social media sites can be discovered during litigation and used against them in legal disputes.
Consider this hypothetical case.
At 5:00 p.m., on a Wednesday, a twenty-something woman, Cindy, was driving her blue Ford Focus home from her job in Castle Rock, Colorado. She lived in Denver, Colorado's amazing LoDo District. So, she was driving northbound on I-25 in (very) slow-moving traffic. As she approached the I-225 ramp, a red Dodge Challenger appeared out of nowhere and cut in front of her. The red Challenger's driver wanted to merge onto I-225 but, due to the heavy traffic, was unable to safely change lanes a mile before reaching the I-225 ramp. When the red Challenger cut in front of Cindy, she slammed on her brakes to avoid hitting it. When she slammed on her brakes, a blue Chevy Silverado slammed into the back of Cindy's blue Ford Focus. The red Challenger escaped unharmed. Cindy's blue Ford Focus was totaled. Cindy survived the accident, but, as she would discover later, she had been seriously injured.
After the accident, even though she felt a slight pain in her lower and upper back, the first thing Cindy did was pull her cell phone out of her new Coach Bag and text her best friend Laura. Cindy texted: "OMFG. I just had an accident. But I'm okay. " Then, Cindy posted a Facebook status update, attempting to make light of the accident. She wrote: "OMFG. I just had an accident! Glad my airbag worked!" Cindy's Facebook update automatically updated her Twitter feed.
A few minutes after she finished texting and posting, Cindy's lower back started to hurt much more than it did immediately after her accident. She felt something was very wrong. Cindy was right. When it was all said and done, Cindy had back injuries that kept her from working for six months. That cost her $20,000 in lost income. Cindy did not have medical insurance when she had her accident. So she had to pay out-of-pocket for her medical bills. She paid $20,000 to a chiropractor, $70,000 to an orthopedic surgeon, and $40,000 to a physical therapist. In total, the accident cost Cindy $150,000 in economic damages. Cindy had severe pain and discomfort during the six months that followed her accident. Additionally, Cindy's orthopedic surgeon told her that she would probably have lower back pain problems for the rest of her life due to her injuries.
When Cindy filed her claims with insurance companies, things did not turn out as she had hoped. One of the insurance companies gave her $5,000 in medical payments benefits, but refused to give her more. One of the insurance companies denied her claim outright and gave her nothing. After getting nowhere on her own, Cindy hired a personal injury lawyer. Unfortunately, her personal injury lawyer was not able to negotiate fair settlements with the insurance companies. The insurance companies wanted to settle Cindy's case for a total of $30,000. That amount would have paid for only one fifth of Cindy's economic damages and none of her pain and suffering. Cindy decided to file a lawsuit against the insurance companies in an effort to recover a fair and reasonable amount of money for her damages.
The insurance company defense lawyers deposed Cindy while they were investigating her claims. During her deposition, they learned the first thing Cindy did after the accident was text Laura and update her Facebook page, which, in turn, updated her Twitter feed. The insurance company defense lawyers demanded that Cindy give them copies of her texts as well as her Facebook and Twitter updates on the day of the accident. Cindy had not deleted these, so she gave the insurance defense lawyers copies. The insurance company defense lawyers noticed that Cindy made no mention of feeling pain in her text message to Laura or Facebook status update. Instead, Cindy wrote "But I'm okay" and "Glad my airbag worked!"
If you are involved in an accident, DO NOT text about it! DO NOT post about it on Facebook or Twitter! Seek medical attention immediately. Report the accident to the local police department. Then contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal rights and options if you were the victim of another driver's negligence or recklessness.
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