Can Social Media Ruin My Case?

The vast majority of American adults have at least one social media profile online, and any local personal injury lawyer will likely give the same advice concerning social media use during an active case: A good rule of thumb is to avoid posting on social media during a personal injury case. While you should be able to safely browse through your media feeds and check on friends and relatives, any posts you make – even those you deem harmless – can potentially negatively impact your personal injury case.

During any type of personal injury case, the plaintiff must provide evidence that the defendant bears liability for the plaintiff’s damages, and the plaintiff must also provide proof of the extent of those damages. If a defendant’s negligence causes a severe injury to the plaintiff, the plaintiff has the right to claim compensation for all the resulting damages, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and property damage. The opposition will be careful to ensure the plaintiff’s claims are truthful and accurate, and a single social media post can cast doubt on a plaintiff’s claims.

Social Media May Conflict With a Plaintiff’s Story

After an injury, a plaintiff may require time off from work to recover and may experience pain and discomfort. For example, suppose Dave T-bones John’s car after running a red light, leaving Dave liable for John’s injuries. John suffers a broken leg and his medical report indicates a three-month recovery period. In John’s case, he could potentially receive compensation for his medical expenses as well as three months’ worth of pain and suffering from his injury. He may also receive compensation for any necessary ongoing medical costs such as physical therapy. If John recovers more quickly than expected or decides to disregard his doctor’s advice and engage in strenuous activity, a social media post showing John walking around or having a good time may cause a jury to believe his injuries were not as severe as he claimed.

It’s also important to remember that context is often nebulous on social media. It would be very easy for a defendant’s lawyer to look at a plaintiff’s social media profile, so plaintiffs must be careful about what they choose to post. Bragging about a “slam dunk” case before it reaches a conclusion, posts about a plaintiff’s plans for a cash award, or posts concerning legal proceedings can all jeopardize a plaintiff’s claim. It’s easy for a defendant’s lawyer or the judge hearing the case to check a plaintiff’s social media profile. They may find statements or posts that conflict with a plaintiff’s claims, but they may also cultivate their own prejudices based on what they see out of context.

Best Practices for Social Media Use During a Case

Social media is an almost unavoidable part of everyday life, but you should try to limit your social media activity once you initiate any type of legal proceeding. You should expect the opposition to thoroughly investigate your online profiles, so avoid posting anything related to your case, even after it reaches a conclusion. Remember that while social media can be a fantastic source of evidence and may even provide crucial details that support your personal injury claim, the opposition may also attempt to use your social media presence against you in the same way.

If you have questions about appropriate social media usage during a personal injury lawsuit, consult with your personal injury attorney and listen to his or her advice. In most cases, an attorney will advise you to stay off social media entirely. However, if you need to use social media for work or have some other special circumstance, your personal injury lawyer can provide guidance for safe social media use that won’t hurt your case.