Those of us that use social media are so accustomed to posting details about our lives that many of us don’t consider how that information could be used against us. One of the most common situations in which your social media account use can backfire is when you are involved in a personal injury case.
Publicly venting about tough times and celebrating triumphs is a big part of how we stay connected to our loved ones. However, these posts aren’t necessarily being seen by just your family and friends. No matter how secure your social media account is, chances are there is plenty of information about you already out there on the internet.
If you were injured by another person’s negligence and decide to file a claim, anything you have posted in the past or during the claim’s process can be used by the insurance companies and other lawyers. Monitoring social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and LinkedIn is a common practice for attorneys and insurance companies. These social media sites often have loads of information that can be used against a claimant, either to undermine injuries, prove liability, or to misrepresent a person’s character.
Are Social Media Posts Admissible in Illinois Courts?
Illinois courts consider Electronically Stored Information (ESI) to be admissible in some circumstances.This could include emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram stories, and other forms of electronic communications and information.
In order for social media posts and other electronic communications to be considered admissible in Illinois courts, the content must meet four criteria. The evidence must be:
- Valuable to the Defendant’s Case
- Not hearsay
- Authentic, meaning created by or about the defendant.
So now we know that social media posts can be used against you in court and by insurance companies to discredit your personal injury claim. What can you do to prevent this information from harming your case?
Don’t Post About Your Accident or Case on Social Media
After something traumatic happens to you like an accident or injury, it’s natural to want to post about it on your social media. But it’s best not to share anything about your accident, injuries, or case.
While it’s helpful to take photos and videos at the scene of your accident, you should only share that information with your personal injury lawyer. Do not use those images or videos to create an Instagram story, TikTok video, or Facebook post.
Sharing too many details about your accident online could be seen as trivializing your injuries. It would not take a big leap for an insurance company to twist your social media posts into an argument that is meant to undermine the compensation you need for your injuries.
Let’s consider the situation where someone is injured because of a slip and fall at a restaurant. If you had shared a selfie smiling with a cocktail before the accident, the insurance company could misrepresent this as your being drunk and therefore responsible for your injuries. You may have just had one glass of wine, but that may not stop an insurance company from twisting the details to serve their purpose. Instead, they will insinuate that your drinking contributed to your injuries.
As your case proceeds, your attorney will give you updates on your case’s development. You may be tempted to vent about setbacks or to post something that was supposed to be celebratory about all of the progress your attorney has made for you. In either situation, this information can serve as an advantage to the defense.
Depending on what you’ve shared, they can rethink their approach to the case and better prepare themselves.
Even Innocent Posts May Contradict Your Claim
The defense can frame even innocent posts to make them look like they contradict your personal injury claim.
When you use social media regularly, you probably tend to share photos of your life. You might share pictures of you out at dinner, videos of you engaging in your favorite hobby, or an occasional outing.
These simple posts can be seriously misconstrued.
If you decide to check in at a restaurant on Facebook, the jury won’t know you were driven there by your friend to pick up takeout because you were in too much pain to cook.
Or a photo of you by the pool won’t show that you were actually watching from a chair because you were too injured from your car accident to participate.
One situation could be an accident victim at a wedding. They may have had plans to go to the wedding for months. And it would devastate their family members if they weren’t there. Even if they had to sit in a chair the whole time and watch, photos of a claimant “out partying at a wedding” could still end up in court. Of course, this is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. But this type of evidence can be powerful for juries.
The point is, almost any post can be taken out of context and used as an excuse to deny or diminish your claim. For that reason, it is best to not post anything at all or else you may be accused of exaggerating or even faking your injuries.
Comments From Others Can Hurt Your Case
Comments from well-meaning friends and followers can hurt your case too.
For instance, those who know you were injured in a truck accident will want to check up on you. It’s a serious situation and people are naturally concerned. A comment asking you how you’re doing will encourage you to discuss your condition. Everyone who’s been seriously injured knows that the healing process is full of ups and downs.
A simple reply like “I’m feeling much better today” on one of your good days can be misconstrued as a sign of recovery or that your injury is insignificant.
You may also be tempted to reply to these kinds of questions with “white lies” or optimistic responses so that your friends and family don’t worry. Statements like “Oh don’t worry Aunt Kathy. I’m fine.” could seriously damage your case.
Making Your Profile Private and Not Posting
While your injury case is open, one thing you can do is keep your profile settings to private mode.
This will prevent your information from being readily visible to anyone who isn’t a friend or follower. However, this doesn’t make it impossible for a zealous attorney or insurance agent to access your profile. In some cases, a defense attorney may file a motion in court asking for access to social media.
That is why taking a break from social media altogether while your case is active is the best course of action. If you can avoid posting altogether, you won’t accidentally reveal details that can be used against you.
Ask Family and Friends Not to Post About You
Even if you are ardent about not posting anything to your social media, there are still lots of ways information about you can end up on social media.
If you are involved in a case, ask your family and friends to not post anything about you. Ask them not to ask you about your case online, tag you in photos, or leave comments referencing your situation.
Even if you’re not directly tagged in a photo that included you, insurance companies and lawyers can dig around your friends’ and family members’ accounts looking for photos of you doing something to undermine your injury claim.
They may look at your friend list and previous posts to find relatives and see who you interact with most. Then they can check other social media accounts accordingly for updates about you.
Find a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer You Trust
If you’re unsure about whether a post can impact your case, don’t take the chance. An innocent post could end up jeopardizing your entire case and causing you to not get the compensation you need for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Instead, share the details about your accident and injuries with an experienced personal injury attorney who will have your best interests in mind. The attorneys at Abels and Annes have years of experience working to secure compensation for our injured clients. Our initial consultations are always free and are a perfect starting point for people who aren’t sure what to do next after they are injured due to someone’s negligence. Call Abels & Annes today at 312-924-7575 or contact us online.