Just to be clear, this is a list of don’ts. Things not to do if you have been in an accident and are thinking you might have a personal injury claim. The Internet is public and forever. Insurance companies and opposing parties can and will use your social media posts, photos, and comments against you. Do not do any of the following six things, and the consequences could be disastrous for your claim.
1. Admit Fault
I tell my clients never to admit fault after an accident, even if the conditions are evident at the moment. Do not even apologize to the other party. The words can be used against you in court or in settlement negotiations later, and additional facts may surface that illuminate who is actually at fault. You don’t want to give up a claim based on a slip of the tongue at the accident site.
The same is true on social media. Do not post that you caused an accident for all the world to see, and then try to claim that another person caused the crash during litigation.
To illustrate, a former client once posted a picture of his car, with the hood crushed up, sitting in a junkyard on Facebook. When his friends commented on the image, the client commented back that he had hit and “T-boned” the other car. He admitted that he was at least partially to blame for the accident. Had the case gone to a jury, it would have been disastrous for the client.
2. Discuss the Accident with Friends
Do not discuss the accident on the Internet. Many people forget that social media posts are public. Even with privacy settings, people you do not know can read, see, share, and judge what you post online. If you post the story of your accident on the Internet and then tell even a slightly different story during litigation, the other side can use your social media posts to make you seem like a liar.
3. Post Confidential Information Online
The things you tell your attorney are protected by attorney-client privilege. Your attorney cannot blab to the general public about your accident, your injuries or anything else case-related. However, if you tell the Internet your secrets, attorney-client privilege will not save you. If you told other people facts that you wanted to keep secret, the facts are not secret anymore. So, if you do not want your lawyer to tell the judge or the other a piece of information, do not share it on social media.
4. Discuss your medical treatment
Do not discuss your medical treatment, what it costs, or how any medical procedure turned out. Opposing parties and witnesses can turn the most innocuous comments into evidence.
For example, our firm represented a woman who posted a positive Google review of her chiropractor. She stated that she felt better after his treatment than she did before the accident. When the attorney on the case tried to assert that the client had a long-lasting head injury, the insurance adjuster on the case claimed that could not be true based on what the client had written in her Google review.
5. Call the opposing party names and post demeaning comments about everyone involved
It may seem like litigation is one of those times when the claws should come out, and the players should show no mercy, but any reasonable attorney will tell you that is not the case. The adage that you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar is especially true in the legal world. Insurance adjusters are more likely to give you a generous offer if you are nice. Jurors are more likely to believe your side of the story if they like you.
Even angry social media posts can come back to haunt you. There was a client at the firm, who posted about his accident on Facebook – already not a good idea. In his posts, he called the other party names and used offensive language to describe the situation. The opposing party used those social media posts to show a jury that the client was inclined to be mean and was not to be believed.
6. Post photos of yourself doing things you claim your injury prevents you from doing
This concept can seem obvious, but it is one of the most common social media disasters personal injury attorneys face. It is difficult to claim that a client has lasting injuries that impact his or her ability to enjoy normal activities if the client posts skiing pictures on Instagram showing a happy, pain-free, normal client.
In one case, a client posted photos of herself hiking in the Grand Canyon while claiming that her accident caused thousands of dollars in medical bills and impacted her ability to do the things she loved. Even though the client may have had an uncomfortable and painful trip to the Grand Canyon, the opposing party used her posted pictures to show that she was not as injured as she claimed.
Another client was almost charged with fraud after posting pictures of her sister and daughter attending a Halloween party and going bowling. The client was in a wheelchair after the accident, and not capable of bowling standing up. The opposing party’s insurance company got a hold of the photos and accused the client of lying about her injuries. Attorneys eventually convinced the insurance company that the client was not the one bowling, and the fraud allegations were dropped.