If you have a personal injury or medical malpractice case (or, if one day you might have one), your social media postings and online activity could unravel even the strongest claim. It is now a frequent occurrence for an injury victim’s posts or social media activity to negatively impact their lawsuit. Nearly every personal injury lawyer has experienced how a client’s online postings can wreak havoc on a case. Victims who claim their injuries prevent them from doing certain activities are now being confronted with the posted images showing them participating in the very events they claim to be unable to do. There are even instances where a victim claims to be housebound and that person is later shown to be checking in or posting reviews of restaurants or bars.
As online activity and social media usage continue to increase, especially among millennials, the impact on lawsuits is sure to keep trending upward. Although somewhat dated, a 2010 survey by the American Association of Matrimony Lawyers (AAML) reports that two-thirds of American lawyers say Facebook is the primary source of evidence used in divorce cases. The effects on personal injury and malpractice cases are similar. If an injured person is claiming that a car accident or medical incident caused them injuries that prevent the person from participating in certain activities or that physical scarring makes that person unable to wear certain clothes, the first thing a defense lawyer does is to search online for any image or post showing the opposite.
Based on our firm’s extensive experience in modern personal injury cases, we offer the following tips for social media usage:
- Before hitting the “POST” button, think about what you are saying or whether you are doing something that’s ill-advised, or whether the post can make you look bad at some point in the future. Also, think about what your post will look like years later if you are on the witness stand.
- Don’t exaggerate your injuries or make claims in a lawsuit that can be proven false.
- When in doubt, don’t post anything! Think about it – are a few likes, re-tweets, or comments worth sinking your injury case?
- Beware of tagging – even though you are not posting the content, your actions and image can be captured by someone else’s post. Elevate your privacy settings and receive notifications if anyone tags you. And, if you are tagged, ask to be untagged. Further, be aware that simply de-tagging you from a post won’t remove the content, and it still may be visible to others. Images and activity on the internet can last forever.
At Decof, Barry, Mega & Quinn, P.C., we recommend that anyone using social media think twice about what you are saying, doing, or even liking. Some defense lawyer down the road could use any check-in, any picture, or any post against you at a deposition or in court. And, by that time, it’s already too late to do damage control.