How Social Media Can Negatively Impact Your Lawsuit
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter – social media is such an ingrained part of everyone’s life at this point that it can be easy to forget how much of your personal information is floating around cyberspace.
At various times, you’ve probably posted online about your moods, personal appearance, hobbies, everyday annoyances, restaurant dinners, vacations, holidays, and milestones like birthdays and graduations. Of course, much of this content includes photos and video.
If you’ve engaged a law firm to file a lawsuit on your behalf (for personal injury, workers’ comp, emotional distress, etc.) can any of this social media information hurt your claim?
The simple answer is “yes.” The large companies and insurance companies that are the typical defendants in these cases now routinely use the discovery process to pore over a plaintiff’s social media feeds for potentially useful evidence.
Social Media Can Weaken Physical Injury Claims
If your lawsuit alleges that your February 2016 injury left you in chronic pain and unable to engage in your normal activities, posts to Facebook in June 2016 about your hikes in the mountains or parasailing in Hawaii are going to be problematic.
Even photos of you engaging in less extreme physical activities -- like a charity car wash -- can be used to rebut the allegations in your complaint or the testimony you give in a deposition about your physical condition or capabilities.
Social Media Can Undermine Emotional Distress Claims
If your lawsuit includes emotional distress claims, the allegations in the complaint will often describe the plaintiff as chronically depressed or fearful or unable to fully participate in or take joy in ordinary life events. Social media content can also be used to rebut these more abstract statements.
The defendants may, for example, point to smiling photos of you at a family reunion or birthday party to argue that your mental state is not so dire. Any other post from you that suggests a happy occasion or a good day can also be used to chip away at your emotional distress claims.
How Should Plaintiffs Handle Their Social Media?
Talk to your lawyer about how to deal with your existing social media accounts and whether you should continue to post while your lawsuit is pending. Depending on the exact nature of the claims in your case and your lawyer’s experience with social media evidence in similar cases, you might be advised to:
- Delete your social media accounts altogether;
- “Go dark” (i.e. not post new material) until your lawsuit settles;
- Set all of your social media accounts to “private” so that only certain contacts can see your feed;
- Prevent others from tagging you in posts or on your timeline; or
- Avoid all mentions of your lawsuit, physical condition or mental state in your posts.
At Levine Law, our Colorado Springs personal injury lawyers can assist you with every part of your negligence claim if you’ve been in a car accident or get hurt on the job. And with Levine Law's no/win, no/fee policy, you pay nothing unless you receive compensation. Contact our office as soon as possible to discuss your options.