We’ve all been there–in the heat of a frustrating or exhilarating moment, we want to vent or share. Thus, we depart from our normal social media posts of vacations, puppies, and hilarious memes. We share our rants or our life-changing news and for a moment, we feel seen. Our pent-up emotions have been released, and our friends or followers reinforce our beliefs and encourage us. A week may go by, and we forget about our posts. But the internet never forgets.
According to a 2021 study from the Pew Research Center, 72% of all adults use social media–people from all age demographics, professions, and walks of life post on at least one of the most popular social media platforms. Facebook and YouTube account for 81% and 69% (respectively) of social media use among adults, with Twitter only responsible for 23% of the over 18 demographic, and Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok more popular with young adults.
So why shouldn’t you post frustrating or rewarding thoughts about your legal issues on social media? If you aren’t including specific details, or negatively calling out insurance companies, etc., how could this possibly harm you?
You could harm the discovery process of your case
If your claim can’t be settled out of court and your case goes to trial, both sides will be able to collect discovery evidence. The discovery process aims to gather as much evidence as possible so “surprise” findings won’t come up later during trial. After your claim is filed, the insurance company or other parties named as defendants in your case have the right to comb through your social media in an attempt to weaken your claim.
The courts have ruled that social media posts can be used as discovery evidence. If the other litigants can prove that your posts could hurt your case, a judge may allow them to comb through the platforms you use. You may have your account set so that only friends and family can view your content, and feel like you can share whatever you’d like on your private page. Nonetheless, it’s legal for opposing counsel to look for photos, contradictory statements, time stamps, and videos that may discredit the validity of your case. It’s vital you remain intentional and wise about anything you share on social media as you await trial or a settlement offer.
The detriments of posting about your case
If you’ve filed a lawsuit to seek personal injury compensation, while your case is ongoing, anything you post on social media could be used against you. For example, if your claim centers on severe, unhealed physical injury caused by an accident, and you post a photo of yourself skydiving after the accident, this may be seen as evidence of a fraudulent claim. If you write and publish vague comments about the amount of money you’re expecting to receive in a verdict, this could also detrimentally impact your case. If you reach a settlement–even if it works in your favor–you may be restricted by the claim agreements you’ve signed regarding how much information you’re allowed to publicly disclose.
- In Largent v. Reed , the plaintiff was suing for personal injury in a motorcycle accident. Largent refused to give the defendant access to her social media account and claimed a right to privacy. Due to evidence that she used Facebook regularly, she was ordered to turn over her Facebook posts and comments as discovery evidence. The court ruled that there is no expectation of privacy associated with social media, essentially leaving the door open for access to private messages, photographs, etc. Largent’s Facebook photos showed her participation in athletic activities and normal day-to-day life in ways that contradicted her claim.
- A Nevada woman who was suing a restaurant for a “slip and fall.” She alleged spinal injuries which required surgery. However, the defendant’s counsel discovered that the woman had previously sued for 2 different slip and falls and a car accident injury. Her fitness tracker was allowed into evidence as it showed she was extremely active for someone so traumatically injured. Her social media posts were used against her claim.
Never delete anything from social media during your claim
In a spur-of-the-moment decision, you may find you inadvertently shared details about your case on social media. While this isn’t an ideal misstep, deleting your posts or comments could have a far greater negative effect on your claim. Once you’ve posted on social media, your data still exists somewhere on the web. If you delete your profile on a platform like Facebook, your account information disappears after 90 days. However, in that three-month interim, the courts could still issue a warrant to access your profile.
Some social media platforms, like Snapchat, delete your posts automatically, thereby making this information more difficult to retrieve. However, the right Information Technology specialists can still find this data if they dig deep enough. If you delete your posts, the defendants in your case may claim you have something to hide. If your posts run counter to your claim, deleting them may look like an attempt to cover up an insurance fraud.
How to prevent your posts from hurting your claim
The good news is there are ways to protect yourself from being haunted by social media posts. Although you’ll still have to discern whether or not you should share anything at all, taking certain steps to restrict what you share on social media after filing your claim can help:
- Block others from tagging you in a photo or post without your consent
- Limit access to your posts to your friend list
- Refrain from posting photos of yourself
- Refrain from posting anything–regardless of how vague–about your accident or about your claim
- Do not allow friends or family to post about your claim or accident either
- Don’t respond to friend requests or messages from strangers
- Stay away from posting altogether
- When utilizing social media, use a VPN (rather than your home wi-fi router) to access the internet
- Ask your attorney to review your accounts
For many of us, social media platforms provide connections, entertainment, and a space to voice our thoughts. Social media can prove a useful tool for business and personal life alike. However, you should use sound judgment when choosing what to share–don’t let your posts destroy your chances for justice and compensation.