Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become so popular that a large percentage of people around the world use them to communicate on a daily basis.
It’s commonplace to use these platforms to share all kinds of information, from employment opportunities to opinions, advice and diary-like details of personal experiences. However, if you’re in the process of filing a personal injury claim or are awaiting its settlement, think twice about what you post!
Social media investigations – the new normal
Photographs, comments and videos posted on social media are admissible as evidence in a court of law.
Lawyers and insurance companies now have dedicated teams that scour the internet for any information, including comments and images, that can either support or contradict a personal injury claim. In fact, any case, be it civil or criminal, may give rise to a social media investigation.
If you twist the facts of a case or even simply overstate your mental, physical or emotional injury on a social media platform, it could seriously compromise the success of your claim. In the worst case scenario, you could even be charged with fraud – a criminal offence that warrants jail time.
In addition to your own social media posts, those of your family and friends are fair game during an investigation.
How social media could hurt your case: an example
As an example, Michael is claiming compensation for serious injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.
Michael claims his mobility is gravely impaired, affecting his ability to work, and that his face is seriously scarred – so much so that the scarring has negatively impacted his confidence and overall well-being.
Apart from claiming medical expenses, Michael wants the court to direct the defendant’s insurance company to compensate him for pain and suffering, and loss of earnings associated with his injuries.
At this stage, it’s likely that a social media investigation will be activated. The first port of call will be examining Michael’s social media footprint.
If the investigating party finds freshly posted photographs of Michael in a social environment – simply smiling among a group of friends or entertaining at home, for example – it could seriously compromise his claim.
Similarly, if images or other evidence indicate that Michael has been performing tasks that could be argued to require full mobility, these could significantly reduce the compensation he’s eventually awarded or result in his claim being rejected in its entirety.
Don’t let social media trip you up
If you’re instituting a personal injury claim or awaiting its settlement, it’s recommended that you protect yourself by following these simple steps:
- stop posting comments and photographs on social media sites and, if necessary, de-activate your accounts
- never post comments or photos of your accident or injury online
- configure the highest possible privacy settings on your computer; also activate settings to ensure you’re invisible to internet searches
- be wary of new “friends” online; they may be part of an investigating team
- remove all photographs of yourself, with the exception of head shots, from the internet
- retain all computers, tablets and cell phones, or it may be construed that they were intentionally destroyed to hide evidence
- don’t join website or chat forums.