By Hannah Bowie
I remember sitting in my dorm room in Fairchild Hall at the University of New Hampshire. I received an invite to a new website called “The Facebook,” the newest social media outlet.
To join, an existing member specifically invited you. Very few colleges and universities were part of Facebook when I joined. Each connection originated from a student at Harvard. I recall signing up and instantly having a profile. That’s it though—just a profile with my name, school, date of birth, and other basic information. Relationship statuses and timelines weren’t a thing. You put together photo albums in your family room with actual photographs you took with an actual camera and had printed from a local store.
When I created my first profile on Facebook, I had no idea how much social media would impact my career. In law school, I assisted an attorney in a custody matter. That custody matter lasted almost three years. That was partly because of the information I was able to find on social media about the opposing parties. You see, the opposing parties believed their pages were private and they could post anything and everything. Their pages weren’t completely private. I was able to navigate from profile to profile, linking family members and friends together. Once I was able to link people together, I scoured uncovered some pretty damning evidence. I used social media to my advantage and helped change the trajectory of a child’s life which has significantly impacted mine.
Social Media Can Affect Your Injury Case
When it comes to the world of injury law, the impact social media has can be detrimental. If you are a plaintiff who claims extensive damage to your leg to the point where you have trouble walking and the defense lawyer finds a video the plaintiff posted to social media of them skiing down a double black diamond in Colorado three weeks after the alleged injury. A seemingly innocent photo of you and your family on a hayride through an apple orchard may bring questions as to how severe your injuries really are.
If you claim a traumatic brain injury in one breath but post a photo to social media showing you having a grand ol’ time at the orchard, the insurance company and defense counsel will jump all over the opportunity to say you are not as injured as you are claiming. At the end of the day, a simple photograph can significantly decrease the value of your case.
Maybe you felt like yourself that day at the orchard, and you wanted to capture and share it with your family and friends on social media. And maybe you put on your best face for your family, but your head was throbbing the whole time. We, as plaintiff attorneys, understand that. However, defense lawyers and adjusters will demand that the jury reconcile the pictures with the symptoms that you claim you were experiencing at the time the photo was taken. The saying “a picture speaks a thousand words,” is true. Even if the words spoken from the picture don’t tell the whole story.
Posting on social media has become an integral part of our lives, but what you post on social media matters. It especially matters if you are involved in an injury or disability case. From the photos you post to things you share, be mindful. What happens on the internet stays on the internet. Deleting or marking as private does not change that. Social media probably won’t make your case, but it can definitely break it with one single click.
What do we advise?
We usually advise our clients to stop posting on social media after they’ve been injured in a car accident, slip and fall, medical malpractice, on the job, or if you’re claiming a disability. If you have posted, we are allowed to advise you that you can make your settings completely private or you can deactivate your account, but you cannot delete things.
Of course, this blog post is not legal advice. Every situation is different and would obviously require different advice. If you have a current ongoing case and have posted on social media, give us a call. We’ll walk you through what to do.