For our clients who have been injured in car crashes, we always advise them to shut down their Facebook and Twitter accounts during the claims process. But let’s be honest, this is easier said than done. At the very least, during a personal injury claim, be careful about what you post to social media and remember, nothing is private.
PRIVATE PROFILES AREN'T PRIVATE. When we ask a client to shut down their Facebook or Twitter page, the first response we get is a bargain: “What if I set my profile to private?” Guess what? Just because your profile is private doesn’t mean that it can’t be accessed in the event of a lawsuit. In fact, your ENTIRE Facebook page can be subpoenaed during the discovery process. This includes private messages, chats, pictures, status updates, and even your Facebook games.
WHAT WILL THE DEFENSE DO WITH MY FACEBOOK INFORMATION? The second option clients suggest when we ask them to shut down their page is not posting about the accident at all. “I won’t post any injury pictures,” “I’ll have friends call me about it instead,” etc. While the defense would likely use posts about the collision against you, that’s not all they’re looking for. Defense attorneys are looking at your behavior after the collision. For example, posting pictures of yourself on vacation, dancing, or playing sports following an accident just sets up the insurance company to say, “does this look like someone who’s injured to you?”
And whatever you do, don't post pictures of the collision or the vehicle damage and never - NEVER - post something like, "I was in an accident last night, but don't worry, I'm OK!"
GETTING TAGGED IN PICTURES. Remember, you’re not the only one who can post on your Facebook wall. A colleague of ours recently had a case with a client who was injured in an auto collision but who posted a status about going to the gym with a few friends. The post was dated shortly after her collision. This wasn’t a case of ours, so we don’t know if the woman was exaggerating her injuries, or if she thought “walking it off” would do her some good. The bottom line was that she posted about doing a very physical activity right after her accident. While you might say to yourself that you’d never post vacation photos or gym statuses after a crash, what if these people didn’t bring it upon themselves? We’re all familiar with the “tag” tool on Facebook. Most of the time we laugh off how unflattering Facebook tags can be compared to your own pictures, but in personal injury cases, they can cost you real money. And if the defense catches sight of that photo of you on a treadmill before you can “untag” yourself, they would be more than happy to use it against you.
CAN THE DEFENSE SUBPOENA YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA? In this day in age, it seems pretty unfair that attorneys can subpoena your information, but yes, yes they can. It sucks, but it’s perfectly legal. Mediums of communication change from generation to generation. Our great-grandparents sent letters to one another, our parents spoke on the telephone, our generation communicates on Facebook.
The laws haven’t caught up to this new mode of communication yet, and unfortunately, judges are tending to side with the defense attorneys. When they ask for your social media information, they get it all – even your private chat conversations.
WHAT TO SAY ON SOCIAL MEDIA AFTER A CRASH. Let us reiterate: If you’ve been injured in an auto collision, DELETE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS.
If you have to say something to your friends to let them know that you’re unplugging for a bit, just make a status update or tweet with the basics; “Hey guys, I was in a car accident recently. I’m going to turn my social media accounts off for a while. You know my phone number if you need to contact me.” Then follow through. Delete the account. Don’t avoid posting, don’t make your account private, delete it. It’ll be there in a few months when your case is settled.
If you have questions about personal injury cases or what else to do or not do after a collision, give us a call at 253.858.5434.