Social Media and Car Accidents

Written by Andrew Traub

December 20, 2013

We all like our social media so that we can keep in touch with family and friends.  Social media is also important to show that we have a respectable online profile for job applications, college applications, or general goodwill for charities.  We like to keep everyone updated on our lives, but should you use social media to announce to friends that you have been in a car accident?  People fail to consider how their online presence will be perceived by a court of law in the event any legal action is taken.

A good rule of thumb to remember is there is no such thing as privacy on any social media sites.  As a personal injury plaintiff, you must realize that anything that is posted about you on anyone’s profile is not private.   You should never post anything that you would not want heard in front of a judge and jury (your community).

The picture or post may not even be what it seems, but the insurance defense lawyer will twist any of your postings , requiring you to provide an explanation during trial about what was really meant in the post.  Be warned, insurance companies may start monitoring and copying your social networking accounts almost immediately after an accident occurs.

How can social networking be harmful if you are a victim in a car, motorcycle or, trucking accident?  If you are claiming injuries in a motor vehicle accident, you would not want to post something like “I just ran a 5k today!”  Or if you are claiming a severe back injury, “I just rode a horse today!”  This may show that you are not as seriously injured as you are claiming.

Sure, even people with serious injuries have good days and may take a picture of themselves doing something they normally can’t do, but any photo is discoverable (even if it’s not posted online), so you may have to provide it to the defense lawyer after suit is filed and then you can be sure they will show it to the jury to try make you out to be a liar.  Not fair?  Of course not, but insurance companies and their lawyers play dirty.

You also do not want to post anything about your feelings toward the person that caused your injuries, any status updates about your law suit, or anything about you, your family, or your lifestyle.  You do not want to post any pictures of yourself.  All these things can affect the part of your case where your attorney is arguing that you have a lower quality of life due to your sustained injuries.

If you think we’re advising you to stay away from cameras and social media after you’ve been hurt in a collision, you’re right!

According to an article written for American Association for Justice by Steve Gordon, defense attorneys and insurers will readily spend ten to thirty thousand dollars in hopes of getting 10 seconds of video footage showing the injured plaintiff doing something that “he could not possibly do if he was truly as injured as he says.”

Take time to “Google” yourself and see what comes up.  You do not want a website popping up that shows you just won a marathon over the weekend.  This will discredit you in your case to the defense and the jury.  You must assume that defense attorneys will be googling your name and checking out your social networking profiles to see how injured you truly are.  If you have something that you think might hurt your case, tell you lawyer about it upfront.  It is better for your lawyer to know what is going on rather than have him surprised at mediation or in court.

If you have any questions about social networking and your pending law suit or if you or anyone you know has been injured in a car accident, call the Traub Law Office at 512-343-2572 or contact us online.

UPDATE

Here are three document production requests we received in a client’s case (from Progressive Insurance’s lawyers):

  1. For each social media account maintained by you since the date of the accident to the present, produce the exact web address (URL) and user’s name as it currently appears on the social media site, or as it last appeared before you cancelled services with the social media site.
  2. For each social media account, other than Facebook, maintained by you since the date of the accident to the present, produce any photos, videos, messages, posts, blogs, status updates, location “check-ins” or other content from the date of the accident to present.
  3. If you maintained a Facebook account, produce a copy of your account archive.  Your account archive is obtained by navigating to your account settings and clicking on the “download your Facebook data” link.

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