Do you use social media every day? As a part of your daily routine, do you regularly go to social media platforms to share your opinions, photos and updates about your life with family and friends? If so, you are not alone.
The Pew Research Center reports that 68 percent of adults in our country use Facebook – by far the most popular social media platform. Roughly three out of every four of those users access the platform on a daily basis. American adults also typically use at least two other social media platforms for personal and professional reasons such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, WhatsApp, Pinterest and LinkedIn, according to Pew.
However, as natural and harmless as your social media activity may seem, you need to be cautious about it. This is especially true if you are pursuing a car accident claim or other personal injury case in South Carolina or North Carolina. Your social media use could potentially hurt your ability to collect full and fair compensation for your injuries and losses. Here, we discuss how social media use can negatively impact your case and provide a few tips to help you to avoid that impact.
Why Do Insurance Companies Want to See Your Social Media Activity?
When someone else’s negligence causes you to suffer an injury in a car crash, slip and fall or other type of accident, you typically turn to that party’s insurance company – and maybe your own – to cover your medical expenses, lost income, pain, suffering and other losses. Insurance companies like to collect premiums, but they don’t like to pay claims. They will look for every way possible to pay the least amount or avoid payment altogether.
That’s why insurance companies want to see your social media activity. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms can provide the insurance company with a wealth of information about your physical and mental condition after an accident. You can bet that the insurance company will look for ways to access that information through a formal evidence-gathering process called “discovery” or by collecting what is available in the public realm. The insurer will try to use that information against you.
For example, you may have suffered a lower back injury in a South Carolina car accident. If you post a photo or video of yourself playing basketball or dancing after the crash, the insurance company may use it to assert that your injury never happened or that it is not as severe as you claim. If you suffer from emotional distress after an accident, but then post something on social media which shows you stress-free and enjoying life, you can count on an insurer to try to use that against you, too.
Even after you resolve your case, your social media activity could come back to haunt you. As CNN reported a few years ago, the daughter of a Florida man who received an $80,000 settlement in an age discrimination case boasted on Facebook that the settlement would pay for her vacation, and she told the defendant to “SUCK IT.” A court found that the post violated the confidentiality terms of the settlement and revoked it.
Why Is Social Media Activity Admissible in Court?
If a person’s out-of-court statement is offered at a trial to prove the truth of what the person asserted, it generally cannot be admitted under the evidence rules in South Carolina and North Carolina. It is deemed to be hearsay. For example, you cannot offer a person’s statement, “I broke my leg,” to prove that the person broke his or her leg.
However, if you are party to a case, and you make an out-of-court statement on social media that is inconsistent with a position that you take at trial, the statement would fall under an exception to the hearsay rule. Additionally, statements that you, family members or friends post on social could be admitted for a non-hearsay purpose if any of you should testify at trial. An insurer could offer the statements to cast doubt on your credibility, or “impeach” your testimony.
It is important to work with a lawyer who will aggressively challenge any attempts by an insurance company to access your social media activity and use that information in court. For instance, the social media statements, photos or videos that an insurer wants to use against you in court may not be relevant. Or the insurer may have failed to authenticate it, or establish that it really came from your social media account on a certain date.
How Can You Avoid Negative Effects of Social Media Use?
If you have a personal injury claim that is pending, you should simply take a break from social media until your case is over. However, if you cannot go cold turkey, here are three suggestions on how you can avoid any negative impact on your case:
- Never discuss your case. Don’t discuss the facts or legal status of your case. As we discussed above, even if your case has been resolved through a settlement, you could still cause harm by boasting about it afterwards.
- Restrict your activity. You should avoid posting messages, photos or videos of yourself. An insurance company may try to use it out of context and portray you in a negative light. You should limit your social media use to minor activity such as liking photos or sharing news articles.
- Adjust your privacy settings. You should use the highest level of privacy settings for your Facebook account and other social media accounts. If someone you don’t know wants to become a “friend,” you should be wary. It could be an insurance adjuster or investigator.
Finally, we want to caution against removing any items that you have already posted to social media platforms. If you do that, an insurance company may claim that you are hiding or destroying evidence and seek some form of sanction against you.
Get Help from an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
At Stewart Law Offices, we know the strategies and tactics that insurance companies often use in their efforts to avoid paying full and fair compensation to personal injury victims, including using information from social media platforms. We can put our knowledge and experience to work for you and fight for the compensation that you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation through any one of our five offices located in South Carolina and North Carolina and learn more about how we can help you.