These days, it seems like just about everyone can be found on a social networking site. Facebook is undoubtedly the most popular, with 750 million users worldwide (and 50% of these users visit the site on a daily basis), but other sites like Twitter and LinkedIn are extremely popular as well. As Joplin, Missouri car accident attorneys, we encourage you to be cautious with social media and your online presence, especially when you're a plaintiff in a personal injury case. A personal injury claim can be destroyed by something as simple as a Facebook post.
Why should I censor myself?
The short answer: because you don't want to jeopardize your case. If you claim that your injuries are keeping you from doing normal activities, and then you post a photo of yourself skateboarding a month after your accident, your "pain and suffering" will seem laughable to insurance companies, judges and juries. Likewise, if you update your status so it reads "Feeling much better today," defense lawyers can use that statement to argue that your injuries are not as serious as you claim. And if you say you are unable to work at your desk job, and it's revealed that you've been spending 8 hours a day on Facebook, that doesn't look so good.
How would an insurance company get access to my Facebook information?
It doesn't matter how strong your privacy settings are: if something is posted online, you should assume that anyone can see it. For example, let's say a friend posts a picture of you, so you wind up in her News Feed. Then, a friend of hers comments on the photo: now you're in the News Feed of someone you don't know. And the circle can get wider and wider...Remember, if your friends or family members post photos or information about you, you don't always have control over who can access that information.
In the past, insurance defense lawyers sometimes used sneaky tactics to connect with plaintiffs on Facebook, like sending friend requests from fake accounts. Currently, however, those tactics are unnecessary: it's not uncommon for courts to request and admit evidence from Facebook. In personal injury cases, plaintiffs have been ordered to provide insurance company lawyers access to their Facebook accounts.
What are some steps I can take to make sure social media doesn't hurt my personal injury case?
- First, Google yourself. That will give you a basic idea of what information about you is available to the general public. You can also search for yourself on Facebook.
- If you have a blog, disable it. Many people who use blogs write regularly about their daily lives, which could include references to the accident, to your injuries, and to your activities since being injured. Blogs tend to be very personal - and they're also very searchable.
- Most injury attorneys recommend that you stop using Facebook entirely while your lawsuit is pending. At the very least, avoid posting anything about your accident on Facebook (or any other social media site): no pictures, no video, and certainly no status updates about your recovery. Ask your friends to do the same.
- Keep an eye on your friends' posts. If they make comments about you, or post photos, or check you in to different places, that information can be used against you. If you're claiming to be bed-ridden, but your friend checks you in to a dance club on a Friday night, you can bet the defense will use that information.
- Look through your old Facebook posts and delete anything that might be damaging to you.
- Never accept friend requests or "follows" (or respond to emails sent via social networking sites) from people you don't know personally.
Call the auto accident lawyers at Aaron Sachs and Associates if you need assistance with a personal injury claim. We never represent defendants or insurance companies, and we're passionate about making sure victims of auto accidents have their interests fairly represented. Call us today and schedule a free initial consultation.
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