Social media is an integral part of today’s society. Nearly 3.5 billion people currently admit to using at least one social media platform regularly and more than one million new people join every day. That means nearly 50% of the entire global population is on social media in some form or another.
With statistics like that, it’s no wonder there are a lot of benefits to social media, and a lot of negatives, too. When you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, people are likely going to be doling out well-meaning advice to you regarding your own personal use of your accounts. Their advice may be well-intentioned, but if they aren’t personal injury attorneys, it may come back to hurt your case later.
Instead of guessing your way through the maze of the impact of social media in your own personal injury case, we have put together a list of when social media can benefit you and when to avoid it completely.
Using Social Media as a Tool to Help Prove Your Case
Of course, your cell phone will come in handy as soon as you have been in an accident. You’ll need to call the authorities and your insurance company, and you can use the camera to take pictures of the scene of the incident for documentation and evidence-gathering purposes.
But jumping immediately onto Facebook or other social media sites and making an emotionally charged post is not always the smartest thing to do. Instead, deal with the law enforcement officers and medical personnel, take care of your health and possible injuries, and concentrate on the situation at hand. Your social media posts can come later.
Once the initial chaos of the accident has settled down and you have spoken to an attorney for guidance, you may be able to use your social media posts to help your lawsuit. Until you have retained an attorney, though, avoid posting any details about your accident – even something seemingly innocent – on your media feeds.
Social media can be used for a few advantageous reasons, though. It can be a benefit when you:
- Need to find a recommended attorney – The odds are that someone on your friends list has had experience with a personal injury lawyer in your area. If you throw out a request for highly recommended attorneys specializing in whatever type of accident you found yourself in, you may get some good suggestions.
Be sure to ask for a focus on the factor that is your priority – tenacious attorneys, those who put clients first, or whatever your specific qualifications in a personal injury lawyer would include. However, consider what information you are putting out into the world of social media carefully. Do not answer questions for details publicly; just ask for a general referral for a specific type of attorney.
- Look for information regarding attorneys you are considering – Social media doesn’t always cater to the frivolous posts of what you ate for dinner or your child’s newest milestone. Business platforms like LinkedIn let companies and professionals create profiles to generate interest and contacts.
Many attorneys in California have profiles on LinkedIn, where you can search them out, research their work history and previous clients’ testimonials on them, and contact them if you are interested in setting up a consultation.
- Gather evidence – With your attorney’s guidance, social media can be a goldmine of wealth when it comes to tracking down people who know people who had a firsthand view of your accident. It’s typical for most people to want to avoid accident scenes for their own reasons. Many individuals will make sure there is someone else around to take charge and get help, and then they will go on about their day.
But if you need a witness to cement the evidence in your case, your attorney may ask you to post an ad on social media, letting your family and friends share it, asking for help looking for someone who may have seen your accident. Again, ensure your attorney guides you on this so that you don’t inadvertently say something that the insurance companies or other party’s lawyer could use against you.
You can use this same type of evidence gathering to scour the defendant’s social media and look for any posts they make that can be used against them. Some people don’t like to use this method because they think they are invading someone’s privacy, but if you can find out that the person responsible for your car accident, for example, was at a party drinking just a short while before your crash, that can help your case immensely.
When to Stay Away from Social Media Posting for Your Case
It can be scary to see how some people use social media to document every step of their day. Snapchat videos of someone driving and singing along to their favorite song are posted daily. Many times the drivers have children in their car and the videos are used by concerned viewers to hold the driver accountable for their dangerous behaviors. This is just a common example – there are hundreds of other ways that people committing crimes or engaging in reckless behavior provide incriminating evidence all by themselves.
If your first thought is to start a Facebook Live or a Snapchat video about your accident, you may be unknowingly harming your case. Even if you delete the post after the fact, others will have seen it, and it’s possible to subpoena the posting from social media outlets if it appears necessary.
Focus on taking care of your injuries, reporting the details to the law enforcement officers, and calling your immediate family or your job to let them know you won’t be in. Social media, regardless of the predominance of users, is not a priority right now and might, in fact, hurt you in the long run.
Just as your attorney will be doing everything possible to prove your case for you, the defendant’s attorney and the insurance companies want to disprove it. If they can use something you said or did against you to reduce or eliminate their financial responsibility, they will do it.
A statement made as a joke, like, “Look at how clumsy I am – I tripped in a pothole!” can be used against you. A reference to you getting in a car accident and “feeling bad” about it may suggest that you were responsible for the wreck. And worse, telling worried friends that you’re “fine” after the accident may make them feel better, but can be used to show that you weren’t injured or reduce your settlement later.
Remember that, even though you aren’t being arrested, when it comes to social media, “anything you say can and will be held against you.” And whatever you do say can be made to look totally different. So avoiding using social media to talk about your accident is just good common sense.
But even if you don’t talk about your accident, you can hurt your case in other ways. Just because your settings are set to “friends” only, you are not guaranteed privacy. In fact, you should know that when it comes to any type of lawsuit, your social media feeds will be monitored by the opposing party, looking for an opportunity where you slipped up.
So if you are claiming a back injury but make a post about a family trip to a water park and the fun time you had on the intimidating water slides, or a theme park where you enjoyed the high-impact rides and walking around all day, don’t be surprised when the insurance companies or defending attorney shows up in court with photo evidence and screenshots.
There are a few general rules of thumb to keep in mind when using social media during a personal injury case:
- Never admit fault. Since even innocent statements can be misconstrued as an admission of fault, it’s best not to say anything at all about your accident.
- Never post any pictures of the accident. Pictures from the crime scene will be scoured by both parties. If there is anything in them that is remotely condemning, such as an empty beer can, it can be used against you. This includes avoiding posting hospital pics or images of your injuries.
- Never apologize for being involved in the accident. You may be well-meaning by saying anything apologetic about your part in the incident, but that post can be used against you to imply that you feel responsible.
- On the other extreme, never post rude or angry comments. Emotion can get the best of all of us, especially when you are injured and can’t do something you really want to do because of it. You may be feeling sorry for yourself and get mad about the accident. You may even want to vent on social media and get it out of your system. But control that urge. Don’t post anything that can be taken as an aggressive or vindictive comment.
Let the Experts Guide You, Not Your Social Media Friends
Well-intentioned advice from your close friends and family won’t replace the skilled expertise of an attorney with a law degree and experience in your situation. Instead of turning to social media to determine what to do after a personal injury, call Hershey Law for your free consultation