Let us say you were in a car accident over the weekend. You are angry and want to vent, or maybe you were injured and want assure your friends that they should not worry. Maybe another driver or passenger was seriously injured and you feel bad for them and apologize for them being hurt, even if it was not your fault. It would be very tempting to post about the ordeal on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. for many reasons. Don’t do it.
Anything you say or show on social media can be found by the defendant’s insurance adjuster or the insurance company’s attorney. Adjusters and attorneys, particularly in personal injury cases, have become very social media savvy and will carefully monitor your account for anything posted that may help their case. They may even send a friend request. Even if your Facebook account or Twitter account is private, it can be subpoenaed in its entirety including your private messages and chats.
In a different scenario, you just bought that car and loved it. Then you were involved in a wreck. Putting a picture of the car on Instagram with #wreckedmycar and the statement “look what I did to my new car” could be construed as you think you wrecked your car, even if someone made a left turn in front of you and hit you. The implication is there that you could have avoided it.
After an accident, do not post any social media pictures of yourself building a rock garden, even if you built it the week before. In fact, it would be wise to shut down your Facebook account altogether. You never know what someone else may post on your page such as “Glad to see you are out and about after your accident. You are lucky you were not seriously injured.” That person may have just driven by and saw you taking an Uber ride to the doctor. That can easily be misconstrued and used against your personal injury claim.
You may have been seen smiling and trying to keep a good attitude at a dinner party, even if you are in a lot of pain, and you are tagged in a photo. The defense could easily say “Let me ask you, does this look like a person who is suffering?”
If you shut down your Facebook account immediately following your accident, no one can post anything or “tag” you. If there was something you said about your bad back or a sports injury in the past it can’t be used as an existing condition defense.
Remember you can deny saying anything but you cannot deny writing or photographing it. Once it is in social media it is there forever and and will be used against you in your personal injury claim.
As communication methods change from one generation to the next, the laws of privacy lag. Your snail mail is private and cannot be opened by anyone without a warrant. Your phone calls can’t be wiretapped except by law enforcement with a court order. Your home or car cannot be searched without a warrant or probable cause. Your social media, surprisingly, can be subpoenaed and used as evidence in court. There are no laws to protect the privacy of social media. A good rule to always play by — if you don’t want it to show up in court, don’t write it or post it anywhere at any time. That includes social media, emails and text messages.