Social Media FAQs
NC Personal Injury Lawyers Explain the Impact of Social Media Evidence
After an accident, your first steps should be seeking medical attention and then contact an attorney. However, for many, posting information on social media may outweigh these priorities. While social media allows you to stay connected to your friends and family, your tweets, posts and pictures can be fatal to your personal injury claim. Insurance adjusters and lawyers for the defendant in your case can use social media evidence to try to refute your damages or even deny your injuries altogether.
At Riddle & Brantley, our personal injury lawyers have seen how damaging a few Facebook posts or Instagram photos can be. Therefore, we always advise our clients to be cautious of any social media posts they make after an accident and during a claim. Below, our legal team answers common questions about social media and personal injury. If you have further questions, then we can provide answers in a free initial consultation.
- Can posts on social media impact my case?
- How can social media affect my case?
- What should I do with my social media accounts if I have a case?
- What should I do if I have already made comments or posted pictures concerning my case?
- I am filing a personal injury lawsuit. What social media guidelines should I follow?
- Can I sue for defamation on social media?
- Where can I find more information about social media evidence in personal injury claims?
Can Posts on Social Media Impact My Case?
Yes. For most of us, social media is a big part of our lives. Still, as useful and convenient as social media may be, it can have a negative impact on your legal claim. Sometimes, your posts or statements may be taken out of context at a later date. This is especially true if you have a workers compensation or personal injury case.
Posts or comments shared on the internet are usually a matter of public record. This makes your Twitter feed, Facebook updates and other accounts fair game for insurance adjusters and defense attorneys. If you have your accounts set to private, then it may be more difficult for the insurance company or an attorney to access your account. However, it is not impossible. Additionally, certain content, like a private message, is not readily available for all to see. Nevertheless, in a personal injury lawsuit, the other side may request access to this activity as well.
How Can Social Media Impact My Case?
If litigation is likely for your personal injury case or if you have a workers compensation matter before the Industrial Commission, then your current and future postings on social media can work against you. This is especially true if the posting contains any information that is relevant to any issue in your case. Of course, not everything you post will necessarily harm your claim, but it is easy for pictures and statements to be taken out of context. Social media evidence is often used to show that the damages in a personal injury or workers comp case are not as serious as you claim.
Even a seemingly innocent selfie taken at dinner with friends can have serious repercussions. For example, you may have a legitimate claim for medical bills and other damages after a car accident. However, the at-fault driver’s insurance company might argue that your injuries must be minor if you went out and had a good time with your friends. Even if this is not true, and your injuries were major, a picture or statement taken out of context can badly damage your chances of a fair recovery.
Additionally, it can be tempting to vent your feelings on social media, but statements made in haste can reflect negatively on you and your claim. This is true even of statements made before your accident or injury.
We recently handled such a case in the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Our client had posted comments on his Facebook, which interested the judges. We were asked questions about why he posted his comments and the judges used his comments to make their rulings in his case. His comments could have been interpreted in many ways and the judges were very concerned with how to appropriately interpret his comments.
What Should I Do With My Social Media Accounts If I Have a Case?
We recommend that you change any accounts you have to “private” rather than “public” accounts. However, our best advice is NOT to post on social media sites before and after filing a personal injury lawsuit. This is the easiest way to avoid any legal issue that may result from your postings.
What should I do if I have already made comments or posted pictures concerning my case?
If you have already made social media posts about your accident, then our personal injury lawyers may advise you to remove them. However, if a suit has been filed, you may have a legal duty to preserve all information in all of your accounts. If you remove posts after receiving notice to preserve this evidence, then you may face legal repercussions.
As social media issues are still new to personal injury law, it is unclear as to what information you must preserve. Whether it will be necessary to provide this information will depend, in part, on your expectation of privacy and whether your postings were public or available to anyone. Prior to removing any information, you should consult with your attorney.
I am Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit. What Social Media Guidelines Should I Follow?
We all use social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more. While there are no hard and fast rules on how to protect yourself in case you one day need to file a personal injury claim, common sense still applies. For example, if you say untrue things about others with malicious intent, then you may be defaming that party. Therefore, if you do use social media after an accident, follow these rules to avoid damaging your personal injury lawsuit:
- Follow the Golden Rule! Do not say negative or damaging things about others, even if you feel they are true. These statements may qualify as defamation; if so, then you could be liable for monetary damages. This includes not only your social media accounts but comments on business review sites, blogs, and even YouTube.
- Victims of car crashes or other accidents, including workplace accidents, should not post reports about their activities or their conditions on social media. No matter what they are, you will likely have to explain these posts in depositions later.
- If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, then you may not be able to delete or retract posts. If you do, then you may violate rules regarding preservation of evidence. Therefore, your personal injury lawyers cannot advise you to delete posts if the other side requests copies.
- When emailing, texting, or posting on social media, be cautious of your audience. Sending the wrong message to the wrong person may violate privacy and confidentiality rules and regulations. Never “reply to all” or make a public post unless you are certain your message is intended for “all”.
Can I Sue for Defamation on Social Media?
Yes, in some cases you can file a lawsuit and collect compensation for defamation on social media. Defamation means that someone made false allegations about you that caused you damage. These allegations can be made either verbally or in writing, and are often made with malicious intent. However, it is important to note that a damaging statement is only defamation if it is false. Truth is always a defense to defamation, but the truth is sometimes elusive.
Our law firm has handled defamation cases in the past and recovered money damages for victims of malicious, false statements. In one particular case, Gene Riddle handled a claim involving a defamatory email. In this case, our client’s business associate sent an email to her boss alleging that she had stolen from the company in the past. This allegation was untrue. Gene Riddle successfully filed suit in this matter; the court ruled in our client’s favor as a matter of law that the email was defamatory and set the case for hearing on damages. The defendant paid damages on the condition that the figures of the settlement remain confidential.
Recently, a lady in the western part of our state recovered $500,000 after she filed suit for defamatory comments made on Facebook. The defendant admitted that the allegations were untrue and they were made with malicious intent regarding the death of the lady’s child. The defendant issued a public apology but also paid $500,000 for her careless comments.
Remember, you cannot make false allegations with malicious intent about other people because they make you mad. We recommend that you only use Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other forms of social media for recreation and sharing worthy news. You may be liable for what you say if it is false and causes damage.