Everything that’s posted on social media is considered public, and even the most well-meaning remarks about a personal injury claim could potentially be used against a plaintiff by the defense.
The problem is that it seems everything is posted online somewhere these days, whether that be TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
For this reason, we’ve assembled the following social media guidelines for personal injury plaintiffs currently involved in litigation.
1) Do not discuss your case online [Rule #1]
First off—regardless of what you plan on posting—it’s typically a good idea to ensure your personal social media accounts are set to private.
This prevents outside parties from being able to easily comb through everything you publish online. However, no matter what your privacy settings, you should refrain from posting anything relating to your personal injury case. This includes meetings, doctor’s visits, and any interactions with your insurance company. Anything relating to your case is best kept off social media.
2) Don’t post updates on your injuries, treatments, or overall physical condition
Despite often being the exact type of update you’d like to share with friends, publishing updates about your injuries and treatment can potentially damage your case.
Updates can be taken out of context and occasionally viewed in a way that diminishes your potential settlement. As a result, publicly discussing any facet of your treatments isn’t worth the risk.
An example of this might be you lifting your child and smiling after a serious neck or arm injury. The other side can use this to show that you weren’t actually injured even if you’re just putting on a smiley face for the camera.
3) Do not publish anything relating to physical activities (including travel) while your case is ongoing
This should be a no brainer, but if you’re currently engaged in litigation surrounding a personal injury, posting pictures of a recent ski trip, hike, or other strenuous activity can be hugely damaging to your case.
Even if you’re dealing with chronic pain or still suffering from serious injuries, pictures of you engaging in seemingly “healthy” activities can induce skepticism and jeopardize your case.
A client we worked with had previously taken pictures while on vacation after suffering an injury. This was used to try and show that the client was in good health when in fact she was just recovering from a hotel room.
4) If in doubt, don’t post anything
You might be sensing a pattern here, but if you have the slightest inclination that a post could be damaging to your case, chances are you’re right. Erring on the side of caution is a good rule of thumb, and you’re not ever going to do harm to your case by simply staying silent online.
5) Counsel family members to exercise good judgment with their posts
Unfortunately, not only are you responsible for your own posts, but you’re also responsible for the posts of any family members who might tag you on their own social media accounts. Because of this, it’s prudent to caution your friends and family members to refrain from tagging you in any posts that may have a negative impact on your case.
In some instances, if a confidential settlement is reached, it can be necessary to counsel family to adhere to the agreement and refrain from posting anything that could be considered in violation of your settlement.
For a recent example, look no further than the headline grabbing case in which a man’s daughter cost him an $80,000 settlement after she publicly gloated on Facebook.
When it comes down to it, one careless update can have massive unintended consequences. Exercise good judgment, think before you share, and make sure you communicate the importance of wise social media usage to those around you. There’s no reason to let social media get in the way of resolving your personal injury claim.
6) Set your social media accounts to private
It is recommended that individuals who are pursuing a personal injury claim should set their social media accounts to private for a number of reasons.
Firstly, insurance companies and defense attorneys may review the plaintiff’s social media accounts to find evidence that can be used against them in court. Even innocent posts or photos can be misinterpreted and used to undermine the plaintiff’s case. By setting their accounts to private, plaintiffs can limit who can view their posts and reduce the risk of harmful evidence being used against them.
Secondly, social media can present a distorted image of a plaintiff’s life. Posts and pictures that show the plaintiff engaging in activities that appear inconsistent with their injury claim, such as playing sports or lifting heavy objects, can be used to argue that the plaintiff is not as injured as they claim. By setting their accounts to private, plaintiffs can avoid such misunderstandings and prevent others from misinterpreting their posts.
Finally, social media can be a source of stress for plaintiffs. Seeing posts from friends and family participating in activities that the plaintiff can no longer enjoy due to their injury can be emotionally challenging. By setting their accounts to private, plaintiffs can limit their exposure to such posts and reduce their stress levels.
7) Avoid the Immediate Urge to Post About Your Accident
Written by Andy Gillin last updated 3/31/23.