Posted on April 11, 2019 in Firm News
Almost every personal injury lawyer will advise clients to avoid posting to social media accounts during their personal injury cases. The reason for this is simple: it is very easy for anyone to find anyone else’s social media profiles online, and the content a person posts could easily conflict with his or her claims in a personal injury case. Even innocent posts taken out of context could easily sway a jury. Any personal injury plaintiff should expect the defense to look for any and all information they can find to discredit the plaintiff, and this certainly includes social media use.
Why Avoid Social Media?
Consider the following examples of how social media could potentially impact a personal injury case.
- A plaintiff claims a distracted driver caused a recent accident that resulted in a broken leg. The plaintiff complains of severe physical pain, an inability to work, and various economic damages resulting from the accident. A few weeks after filing his lawsuit the plaintiff posts photos from a recent vacation. Although it may be difficult to prove the timing of the actual taking of those photos, their mere appearance will reflect poorly on the plaintiff’s claim that he is so injured he cannot work.
- A plaintiff posts on social media about how excited he or she is to receive a big payout from his or her ongoing personal injury case. During the final phases of the trial jurors see this post and believe the plaintiff is more concerned with getting paid than ensuring justice and a fair settlement. The plaintiff does not receive as much pain and suffering compensation as the jury would have awarded otherwise as they interpret this post as insincerity on the part of the plaintiff.
- A personal injury plaintiff claims a defendant’s actions left him or her too traumatized to engage in social activities or go outside for anything other than work, and the plaintiff demands a large sum of emotional damage compensation. The plaintiff posts pictures of a family vacation in the following weeks, causing the jury to disbelieve the plaintiff’s claims of trauma.
Some plaintiffs may want to share pictures and posts concerning unrelated topics, but it is vital to remember that the defendants in their cases and their attorneys are likely searching for anything they can find to discredit those plaintiffs. A defense attorney could argue that a plaintiff’s recent lighthearted posts and smiling photos disprove a claim of pain and suffering, or interpret posts as indications the plaintiff exaggerated his or her claimed damages.
Best Practices for Personal Injury Plaintiffs
Ultimately, the best way to handle social media during a personal injury case is to avoid it entirely. However, it may be fine for a plaintiff to simply browse his or her account timelines and news feeds without interacting or posting anything to their own profiles. While this may seem isolating, the reality is that avoiding social media is a small price to pay to ensure a satisfactory outcome in a personal injury lawsuit. Even if a defense attorney takes a social media post completely out of context, the mere indication of any dishonesty on the part of the plaintiff will have an impact on the case.
Consider setting your social media accounts to private, temporarily disabling them, or simply deleting social media apps from your smartphone so you do not feel tempted to check your profiles during your case. Additionally, do not assume that just because you won your case that it is safe to gloat about your lawsuit proceeds or post any other information about your case; doing so could lead to the defendant alleging fraud in your recent case, possibly leading to another legal battle.
If you or a loved one recently suffered a personal injury and wonder about social media use, contact an attorney as soon as possible for legal representation. You may need to use social media for work or other purposes, and your attorney can likely provide individualized advice for handling social media throughout your personal injury case.