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Evidence shows that insurance companies are now trolling social media sites to glean information regarding personal injury claimants. The information they are gathering is being used against claimants of personal injury both in the evaluation of their claims as well as at trial.

The case involving Sarah Tambosso is a classic example as to what can go wrong with a personal injury lawsuit due to social media posts. Ms. Tambosso was a vibrant woman who enjoyed travel amongst other activities before being involved in not one but two car accidents. She had said that after being involved in the two car wrecks that she had become depressed, and that her life had completely changed turning her into a homebody. After a lawsuit was filed, Defense counsel in her case went to work. They hired a private investigator to engage in covert surveillance and downloaded 194 pages of postings from Facebook to use at trial against her claim involving severe emotional distress. The social media posts showing her in various situations some involving drinking, attending parties with friends, river tubing and even a karaoke competition. The judge in that case substantially reduced her award for pain and suffering and emotional distress asserting that the information posted on her social media sites contradicted her assertion that her lifestyle had significantly changed as a result of the accidents leaving her significantly depressed.

Posting on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest and others can be very dangerous to your personal injury claim.

What you post on social media sites may be discoverable by the adverse party’s attorney in any lawsuit even though your settings are place on the highest level of privacy and security. You may not be aware that many insurance companies hire personnel simply for the purpose of tracking internet sites of people who have placed claims against their insureds to glean information about them that could be useful to refute claims asserted about their claims of personal injury and damages.

10 Tips to Regarding Social Media and Personal Injury Claims

There are a number of things you should do in order to protect yourself and your claim once you have been involved in an accident including the following:

1. Don’t post anything online about your bodily injury claim or lawsuit;

2. Don’t send anyone any texts or emails about your bodily injury claim or lawsuit except to your attorney;

3. Don’t post updates on social media of any kind about your injuries, treatment or condition;

4. Don’t post anything about your physical activities during the pendency of your personal injury claim;

5. Don’t post any photographs or videos about you or your activities;

6. Don’t allow anyone to tag you in any photographs or videos that reference you or your activities;

7. You should change your settings to "private" to prevent those who are not your friends from being able to view what you post online;

8. You shouldn’t add anyone to your list of "friends" or include them in your circles or associations whom you do not know;

9. When in doubt, don’t post anything about your family or you online; and,

10. Perhaps the wisest thing to do while a personal injury claim is pending is to suspend or even terminate your social media accounts.

Of course, I’m not advocating that you should lie about yourself to anyone or to do anything that violates your moral code. But, having said that, it would be naive to suggest that you need not be concerned about what you and others post about you online since insurance companies are using information acquired online adverse to your legal interests as well as misconstruing it with the purpose of denying or otherwise reducing the value of your claim.

In searching for information online about a client, I came across a picture of my client attending a party where alcohol was involved. It displayed her in a compromising situation, and she was horrified to hear what others had posted about her online. It is information, photographs and videos of this sort that insurance companies and attorneys use in litigation not just to embarrass a personal injury claimant but to do great damage to their personal injury claim.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.  Chinese Proverb

There’s a Chinese Proverb that says that "A picture is worth a thousand words." So you’re involved in a personal injury lawsuit, but you or someone posts and tags you in a photograph or video of you on vacation. What possible harm can there become of that? Well, for starters a defense attorney would be able to demonstrate that albeit you claim that your life is marred by pain and suffering, the photograph posted online paints a different story. How much pain and suffering are you incurring at the moment you were caught smiling in the picture or video? How much pain and suffering were you incurring during the time you spent traveling with your family on vacation touring the sights? Also, please consider just how many members of the jury who are required to take time away from their work and family that have to sit and hear about your tale of woe only to be presented with pictures of you while you were on vacation smiling or otherwise showing interesting ports of call that they have never been able afford to go to or see?

Social media sites are dangerous to people who are asserting claims of personal injury, because it leads investigators, claim representatives and attorneys to information that can defeat or minimize your claim.

In a lawsuit, the parties engage in what is referred to as "discovery." Discovery can be in the form of interrogatories (which are written questions that you are required to answer upon oath under penalty of perjury), requests for production of documents and requests for admissions and depositions. It is becoming more commonplace for defense attorneys to request information about personal claiming to be injured about their social media accounts in order to reduce if not outright defeat the claims asserted on behalf of the injured.

I don’t know how many times I have heard at trial a defense attorney ask the question, "How much pain and suffering were you incurring (Mr. or Ms. Plaintiff) at the time this picture was taken?" And then, counsel holds up an enlarged photograph of you while on vaction or on a trip or just at home enjoying a cocktail with a smile on your face?

Even if you have set your privacy settings at the highest level of securtiy to avoid unwanted intrusion into your privacy, defense attorneys are still able to gather information and documents during the discovery process of a personal injury case to obtain information and documentation about you including such things as photographs and video that are posted on your social media sites as well as others that can be distorted in ways to make you look like you are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the jury.

The best way to avoid having information about you posted on social media sites is to avoid posting any information about yourself during a personal injury claim. I have on more than one occasion recommended to my clients that social media accounts be suspended or terminated pending a personal injury claim to avoid having information posted by or about my clients being used against my clients during a personal injury claim or lawsuit.

It’s better to be safe than sorry!

As the old saying goes, "It’s better to be safe than sorry" applies to social media.

It might be a good idea to have your social media sites reviewed by your attorney to insure that no information posted is of the type and kind that an insurance company can use against you to devalue your personal injury claim.

Seek counsel from an experienced trial attorney regarding your social media sites and posts.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of an accident or defective product, you should seek out an initial free consultation with an experienced trial attorney to help you pursue your legal rights and remedies. An experienced attorney can help you decide what information you have posted that could be prejudicial to your claims for personal injury and determine what the best course of action would be to deal with it.

Boise Trial Lawyer Alan Morton has over 33 years of experience in helping victims of personal injury seek compensation for their injuries due to no fault of their own. He is willing to provide you with an initial free consultation at his office or your home, work, school, hospital or any other location that is mutually convenient to help you better understand your legal rights and remedies. You can reach Mr. Morton by calling him at 208.344.5555, toll free at 800.716.8021 or by reaching him via an online contact form. You may also wish to consult with his testimonial page to look at the reviews published by many of his former clients.

Category: Trials and Appeals

Labels: #socialmedia
Alan Morton
Advocate for Justice/Trial Lawyer

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