The number of users present on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and LinkedIn continues to increase rapidly. Research conducted by Pew Research Center says that 7 out of 10 Americans are using some form of social media. This rapid growth in social media usage is primarily due to two reasons. Firstly, a lot of people now have mobile phones that allow them to access social media. Secondly, people prefer social media because it is a great platform to connect with friends and family and share experiences.
Despite its numerous benefits, you need to use social media carefully, especially if you are in the middle of a personal injury lawsuit. It is extremely important for you to know that social media posts can damage your personal injury case.
For instance, due to the increased availability of social media, it is easy for the legal team to access your social media accounts. This can result in them finding evidence that can be used against your personal injury claim. Therefore, you need to remember that social media use can negatively impact your case. In fact, it’s not the things you post yourself that can hurt your case, but your friend’s and family’s comments and tags can also prove to be detrimental.
Are Your Social Media Posts Admissible in New Jersey’s Courts?
As perNew Jersey’s law, all types of written evidence are accepted in court. Since social media posts come under-written statements, they too are admissible in court. This includes Facebook posts, Instagram captions, Twitter tweets, emails, chats, etc. Any statement you make outside the court isrendered to be valid if you are involved in a personal injury case. In fact, even your friend’s and family’s posts can also be used as evidence against you if they conflict with your statements.
In reality, there’s no way to escape the social media trap. The opposing side will go to extreme lengths to misinterpret your social media posts. Even if your posts are restricted to friends, the defendant can get important information through a mutual friend. Moreover, they can even ask for a voluntary disclosure.
How Social Media Posts Can Damage Your Personal Injury Case
There are numerous ways in which social media posts can damage your personal injury case. For instance, you could unintentionally post something on social media that can work against your case. You could even post something that can cast doubt on the case facts.
Moreover,you could even post something that makes you look like the person responsible for your injury. These instances can minimize your chances of getting damages for your personal injury.
Here are 4major ways in which social media posts can damage your personal injury case.
#1 – Contradictory Statements
A lot of social media users like to express their opinions on social media through pre-recorded videos and written posts. However, in a personal injury claim, talking too much about the case can cause a person to make unintentional statements that contradict other case facts or statements. Such mistakes are quite common because our memories generally fade over time and recalling specific case details can become challenging. Therefore, a simple inability to remember every minute detail can cause you to say something on social media that conflicts with your personal injury claim.
For instance, in your legal claim,you might say that you got injured before lunch. However, in a social media post, you could unintentionally say that you got injured after lunch. This can cause the defense to challenge your claims. When you file a personal injury claim, you need to be consistent about the details regarding your injury. The defense lawyers can easily use any such contradictory or conflicting social media posts as evidence against you.
#2 –Your Social Media Posts Can Show What You’re Capable of Doing
Social media is a great place to share your experiences with friends and families. You might be a blogger who loves to post photos of their adventure and vacations on Instagram. However, such social media posts in a personal injury claim can show what you are physically capable of doing.
For example, if you have sustained a knee injury and you post a harmless picture of your children on a ski slope, the defense attorney can potentially ask you who took the picture. If it was you who clicked the picture, the defense will have proof that you were on a ski slope. They can argue that since you were on a ski slope, you didn’t have an injured knee and that your claim is false. Therefore, you must be careful of whatever you post on social media while your personal injury case is pending. Remember, your social media postscan work against you in ways that you cannot even imagine.
#3 – Check-Ins
Many social media sites including Facebook and Instagram allow users to “check-in” at a particular location. People going through a personal injury case believe that such location tags are harmless. They feel that being present at a place doesn’t indicate what they were actually doing. However, defense attorneys can interpret these check-ins negatively and use them as evidence to reject a claim.
For instance, if you claim that your injury resulted in limited mobility, then you shouldn’t be checking in to your yoga class. Location tags and check-ins can certainly work against you in court.
#4 – Comments from Friends and Family
Posts and comments written by friends and family can also potentially damage your personal injury case. They can spill details regarding the details of your case, some of which might contradict your initial statement. They can even reveal information regarding the compensation you want to cover for your losses. These are some of the few examples that can hurt your case and damage your evidence.
You should consult with a personal injury lawyer if you are doubtful about how your digital footprint can influence your lawsuit.
Real-Life Example of How Social Media Damaged A Personal Injury Case
The case of John J. Robertelli v. The New Jersey Office Of Attorney Ethics is a classic example of social media can damage one’s personal injury case.
In 2007, 18-year old John J. Robertelli was exercising in a fire department driveway when a police car drove into the driveway and hit the young man. Because of this accident, the young man allegedly fractured his thigh bone. This caused him to suffer excruciating pain. Eventually, John J. filed a personal injury claim against the police department to collect damages for his injuries.
The police department’s lawyer instructed his assistant to send John J. a friend request on Facebook. The assistant complied with the instructions and John J. accepted her friend request.
The assistant carefully went through John J.’s account and discovered videos of the young man. These videos clearly showed John wrestling, traveling, and partying during the period he claimed to be in excruciating pain. Naturally, the police department’s lawyer brought these videos to the young man’s trial in court and questioned John J. on how he was able to wrestle, travel, and dance while suffering from excruciating pain.
Even though the case did eventually settle, John J. did not receive the amount of damages he could have received, if he had not posted on his Facebook account.
How to Use Social Media During A Personal Injury Case
Now that you know how social media posts can damage your personal injury case, let’s have a look at what you can do to avoid it. Here a few important tips that you should remember while using social media during a personal injury case.
#1 – Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
This is one of the most important steps to prevent social media posts from affecting your personal injury case. As soon as you sustain a personal injury, you should get in touch with a personal injury lawyer. Our team of skilled personal injury lawyers will guide you on how to proceed with your personal injury claim. They will also ensure that your social media posts are not used as evidence against you in court.
#2 – Stay Offline Until Your Case is Settled
The best way to prevent social media posts from damaging your case is to quit them cold turkey. Sharing confidential information on social media during a personal injury case can potentially weaken your case.
Remember, New Jersey’s Contributory Negligence Law makes it a shared-fault state. This implies that if you are found to be partially responsible for your injury, the financial damages you can receive will be reduced by the percent at which you are fault. Moreover, if you are found to be more than 50 percent responsible for your injury, you will lose your legal right to receive monetary damages.
#3 – Change the Privacy of Your Social Media Accounts
The best way to do in a personal injury case is to stop using social media altogether. However, in this digital age, it might be difficult for you to suddenly quit using it. You might have to access social media for a work-related project or talk to your family.
In such a case, the next best thing to do is to make your social media accounts private. Remember that changing the privacy settings does not guarantee complete privacy from external parties. However, doing so will definitely restrict the number of people who can view your posts.
#4 – Be Selective in What You Share on Your Account
Until the time your personal injury case isn’t settled, you need to be extremely selective in sharing snippets of your personal life. Posting check-ins and selfies can adversely impact the outcome of your case. Such posts can make it easy for insurance companies to track you. In some cases, they even hire a private investigator to keep an eye on you, and posting on social media will just help them.
You also need to avoid sharing posts related to your mental, emotional or physical condition, medical care, recovery, etc. Moreover, sharing confidential information such as your discussions with your attorney can potentially result in you breaking the attorney-client privilege. You should also ask your witnesses and family members to refrain from sharing details about the case.s
#5 – Remove People You Don’t Know
It is a good idea to filter out your friend and follower list while your personal injury case is going on. Our team recommends that you only keep those people in your list who you know and trust. A friend or follower list comprising people who you don’t know can result in leaked screenshots of your social media posts that can damage your personal injury case.
Moreover, make sure that you don’t accept any friend requests or approve follow requests from people you don’t know. Some of these profiles can be from your opposing party disguised under another name.
#6 – Don’t Delete Your Old Posts or Profile
While it is important to keep low-key on social media websites during a personal injury case, it is not wise to delete your profile or any past posts on it. It is actually your responsibility to ensure that ay evidence related to the case remains intact. Apart from that, deleting old posts can make it appear as if you’re trying to hide the truth.This can result in your entire claim getting dismissed. For instance,the judge can instruct the jury to assume that deleted evidence is harmful to your case.
#7 – Assume That Everything on Social Media Can Be Recovered
Many people assume that they can post anything they like on social media and delete it when they file a lawsuit. However, this is assumption is totally false. Cybersecurity analysts state that deleting information on digital media doesn’t mean that it cannot be recovered.
Additionally, you need to realize that all forms of digital communication are retrievable. This means that the court can order your telephone or email service provider to subpoena your social media posts, emails, chat, and text messages.
If you have sustained an injury, you should immediately consult with a personal injury lawyer. Our team of experienced attorneys will help you build a strong personal injury case and determine the damages you should be receiving for your injuries.
To schedule an appointment, contact us now!