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Social Media : How It Can Sabotage Your Personal Injury Case

Posted by Robert E. Heyman | Feb 03, 2021 | 0 Comments

A number of years ago I attended the deposition of a client who had been injured in a motor vehicle accident in which she had sustained neck injuries. While she did not require surgery, her injuries were documented by MRI testing and as a result she had received various treatments for her continuing symptoms. At deposition, the defense attorney asked all the typical questions, but at one point strayed into questions about whether my client had visited any amusement parks since her accident. Although she admitted having gone to Disney World a few months earlier, she implied that she had only ridden on the "kiddie rides" with her younger relatives.

After repeated inquiry I asked the defense attorney ( with whom I have a good working relationship) to temporarily adjourn the deposition so I could speak with him in the hallway concerning his line of questioning. He thereafter told me that he had learned from my client's MySpace (!) page that she had posted photographs of herself riding on "Space Mountain" and proclaiming that as a result of multiple rides, her neck was "killing her". Oops. Suffice it to say that the case was settled shortly thereafter for less than it appeared to be worth prior to that deposition.

While many people are aware of how inappropriate social media posts can prove literally life changing ( Michael Phelps' public shaming comes to mind), it bears repeating that posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others are far from private, and once posted, cannot be effectively retrieved.

In the days before social media, insurance companies hired private investigators to obtain as much personal information as possible about claimants seeking damages for personal injuries. It was not uncommon for me to be handed videotapes and photographs prior to trial of my clients performing activities which contradicted their claimed disability. While in most instances that evidence could be explained, it made my job of convincing jurors that my client deserved compensation just a bit harder.

With the advent of social media, the jobs of those private investigators have become much easier. As a result, I make a point of reminding my clients that they: (1) should assume they are being watched; (2) adjust their homepage privacy settings; (3) do not accept  "friends" they do not know; and (4) post nothing on any of their social media accounts which might harm their case. This information includes any mention of the facts of the accident; their injuries and subsequent treatment; the status of the litigation and any discussions about what they believe their case to be worth. In addition, I advise against posting any photos of travel and vacation activities, sports they have been involved in and any other recreational activities. The point is that such photos may very well depict activities which took place before the incident, but will still require me to explain them away should the case end up before a jury.

The bottom line is that insurance companies are acutely aware of how a single photograph or comment can derail an otherwise valuable claim. As a result, they request, and can obtain all social media information in pre-trial discovery requests. By posting only bare bones (read: "bland") personal information, you as an injured claimant can make the defense's job quite a bit more difficult and increase the chances for a successful settlement or jury verdict. Should you or a loved one have any questions about these issues, please contact me at my offices at 727-822-3700 for a no-cost consultation.

About the Author

Robert E. Heyman

Bio Robert E. Heyman was born in Providence, RI, and grew up in Barrington, RI. He graduated from Barrington High School in 1974, and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Following high school graduation, Mr. Heyman attended Northfield-Mt. Hermon Academy in Northfield, MA and thereafter attended co...

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