Social Media and Your Personal Injury Lawsuit: 7 Rules to Follow

For most of us, social media is a big part of our lives. We share posts and photos on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay connected with friends and family. When something notable happens to us, good or bad, it’s a no-brainer: we share it. But if you are in the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit, you must take care with your social media accounts.

In our experience as personal injury lawyers, we’ve seen all kinds of problems arise when too much gets shared online. We don’t want this to happen to you.

So, we’ve come up with 7 social media rules to follow while your personal injury claim is pending.

RULE #1: ADJUST YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS (BUT KNOW THAT NOTHING IS EVER REALLY PRIVATE).

Please understand that nothing you share online is ever going to be private. Even so, you should still take steps to control what you can. This is a good opportunity to review your social media privacy settings.

Here are some privacy settings we recommend you make on Facebook, (All of these can be changed by going into Settings – Privacy):

  • Who can see your future posts? – Select “Friends” (or use “Friends Except” to make exclusions)
  • Review all your posts and things you’re tagged in – Enable
  • Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public? – Limit Past Posts (if you’re comfortable doing so)
  • Who can send you friends requests? – Select “Friends of Friends”
  • Who can see your friends lists? – Select “Only Me”
  • Who can look up your email? – Select “Friends” or “Only Me”
  • Who can look up your phone? – Select “Friends” or “Only Me”
  • Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile? – Select “No”

For each social media platform you use, take a few minutes and go into your privacy settings, buttoning down as much as you’re able.

RULE #2: RESIST THE IMMEDIATE TEMPTATION TO POST ABOUT YOUR ACCIDENT.

Consider you make the following Facebook post in the moments after an auto accident:

“I was just in an accident, but don’t worry – I’m OK! I guess the errands will have to wait until tomorrow. Can’t wait to get home and unwind.” 

Often, we get an immediate urge to let friends know when something upsetting has happened. We also want to share our relief at coming through alive. But here’s why you should avoid making that post: the insurance adjustor could use it against you.

That seemingly harmless Facebook update? Is pure gold in the hands of the adjustor. First, you stated that you’re “OK” even though you might not have realized the extent of your injuries. Also, your statement about wanting to go home and resume errands the next day could be taken to discredit your claim.

There are many important things to do after a car accident. Posting about it on social media is not one of them.

RULE #3: AVOID CREATING NEW POSTS WHILE YOUR LAWSUIT IS ACTIVE.

Many of our clients are surprised when we caution them about posting on social media. The truth is social media is accessible, which makes it easy for insurance adjustors to view. If they can find a way to use what you’ve shared against you, you can bet that they will.

Here’s an exercise. Imagine you’re an adjustor. You locate the following social media posts of a man named John, who’s filed a claim. How might you frame these posts to discredit him?

  • A picture of John at a family picnic, a week after his car accident. He’s holding his toddler granddaughter, smiling.
  • A post where John wishes his wife a happy anniversary and says “I hope to get us to Mexico to celebrate soon!”
  • A friend posts on John’s timeline, asking how he’s doing since the accident. John replies, “Feeling better!”

Now, these posts do not disprove that John is injured. He might have been on heavy medication during that family picnic and in bed the rest of the day. John might be dreaming of Mexico, even though the reality is he’s not going anytime soon. Maybe John is still struggling with injuries, but is trying to stay positive and doesn’t want to worry his friend. But posts and pictures can (and will) be taken out of context.

When you’ve filed a personal injury lawsuit, avoid posting anything on social media. You can’t predict how your posts or pictures can be used against you. Nothing you post on social media will benefit your case.

RULE #4: ENCOURAGE FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO AVOID POSTING ABOUT YOU.

When you call up your friends and family to tell them about your accident, encourage them to keep quiet, too. You do not want Mom posting about your accident or saying that you’ll be “using a good lawyer to go after that jerk!” (But, do feel free to give us a good Yelp review after we’ve settled your case. Hint, hint.)

This is another reason why you want to make sure you can review all photos and posts made on your timeline. (See Rule #1 on Privacy Settings.)

Finally, use good judgment with your public activities during this critical time. As much as you want to muscle through and go to that sporting event you already paid for – maybe it’s not worth it.

RULE #5: DON’T PRIVATE MESSAGE OTHERS ABOUT YOUR CASE.

OK, you think – I won’t post any status updates. I’ll just jump on private messenger and let Sally know what’s going on real quick with my legal situation. Here again, we’re going to caution you.

Anything you share online, even private messenger, isn’t 100% private. In some cases, courts have ordered plaintiffs hand over their social media user names and passwords. While this is an extreme example, it’s best to avoid discussing your case or accident online at all.

RULE #6: ASK YOUR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY FOR SPECIFIC ADVICE.

We get it. There may be situations where it’s impossible for you to avoid social media. Maybe you’re an Instagram influencer or a YouTuber with followers in the hundreds of thousands. Or you may have other work-related reasons to continue posts or online activity.

This is where your attorney comes in. (You know, the one you’re trusting to help you win the best settlement possible?) Ask them for how to navigate your life online during this time.

RULE #7: CONSIDER TAKING A SOCIAL MEDIA HIATUS.

The best way to make sure your social media doesn’t impact your personal injury lawsuit? Stay off of it until your case settles!

Use the time to focus on your physical and mental health as you recover. Have a friend over for coffee and to catch up on how you’re doing in person. Buy yourself a journal so you can chronical your feelings on paper – and not on Twitter.

Looking for a trusted, reliable personal injury lawyer? The attorneys at Ladenburg Law bring decades of experience to the table. We offer a no-fee initial consultation and work on a contingency basis. This means that if we don’t win you a settlement – you owe us nothing. Please call us to discuss your case.

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