The statistics are staggering. Several billion people use social media. Social media sites have often been praised for their benefits. However, their dangers should be taken into account, as well. One risk of using social media that most people are not aware of is its potential for use against you as a plaintiff bringing a personal injury lawsuit against another person or entity.
If you are dealing with an insurance company, you should be mindful of any social media information you provide that they could use against you. If your claim is sizeable, you can bet that they will research all angles and employ all strategies necessary to fight you and prevent you from recovering payment. It is wise to assume that the insurance company is examining your social media accounts, so you should act to keep the sensitive information you share to a minimum.
Your injury may be difficult for an insurance company to dispute. For instance, a broken arm is relatively straightforward as medical evidence. However, in many personal injury lawsuits, the most significant award of damages is typically for “pain and suffering.” This is the physical and emotional suffering that you are forced to endure due to your injuries. Financial compensation for pain and suffering is often several times the amount of compensation for medical costs.
With many injuries and soft tissue damage, the quantification of pain and suffering involved depends mainly on your testimony and is open to dispute. Under these circumstances, an insurance company is likely to search high and low for ways to deny your suffering exists.
Rules of Evidence
In personal injury claims, your financial compensation can depend upon what you can prove through admissible evidence. Some rules of evidence statutes allow the questionable proof to be used against you or to prevent some evidence from being presented in court entirely.
After a lawsuit is filed, the discovery process starts. Then, either party can demand evidence that is in the possession of another party or a third party, such as Facebook. Social media posts and out-of-court witness testimony under oath (depositions) can be used as evidence in your lawsuit. Fortunately, many personal injury claims get resolved without a formal claim being filed with a court. Consequently, no discovery evidence is disclosed.
One critical issue that many find unexpected is the way that a “reasonable expectation of privacy” is handled in social media posts that are uploaded while the user’s account is set to “private.” When a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, it takes either a special exception or a search warrant to obtain this evidence.
However, many court decisions have upheld that social media posts uploaded when the user’s account is set as “private” can be accessed legally during discovery proceedings. That means that insurance companies can obtain even private social media posts intended to be shared only with friends during discovery.
You can prevent your social media accounts from becoming evidence against you by being sensible and taking precautions. When in doubt, consult your personal injury attorney.