More and more often, personal injury cases are now involving my client's Facebook or other social networking accounts. Always assume, anything you put on your social networking account will be seen by the other side and can compromise your injury claim. Before the Internet, insurance companies, attorneys, law enforcement, collection agencies and other individuals responsible for investigating information had to work harder to verify statements from individuals. It was much harder to do many tasks that are taken for granted today such as case discovery, job hunting and so forth.
The rise of social networking websites such as MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and other online communities have encouraged people to post anything and everything about themselves. Friends and acquaintances are not the only people taking notice. It has also become a crucial tool used by insurance companies, and other organizations, to gather evidence and seemingly innocuous posts on popular websites can damage a personal injury claim.
Attorneys use social networking websites to verify what the opposing party is doing. If someone gets into an accident and claims to have an injury while submitting documentation that he or she cannot work, an investigator can easily go look up the person's Facebook page. If the person's Facebook page displays pictures of them dancing or rock-climbing or doing something that contradicts what was told to the insurance company, that person has just sabotaged their case.
Being tagged in a photograph by a friend who does not have privacy settings on a Facebook page can also spell trouble. If a supposedly injured person is seen doing something they claim not to be able to do, it can be used as evidence to deny a settlement offer or dismiss a court case seeking money for injuries. While this article should not be read as encouraging deception, injured parties should be aware that anything posted online is not 100% private.
Your Missouri personal injury attorney recommends taking down or deactivating all individual social networking pages while a claim is being pursued. If you're not prepared to take the big step of deactivating your accounts, there are other precautions that can be taken short of that.
1. Immediately make your profile "private," and set all privacy settings to the highest level.
2. Remember to not discuss your accident, injuries or treatment, including any prescribed medication, on ANY social networking sites.
3. Avoid discussing recent activities you've engaged in, physical exertion, abilities and limitations, or any other information that may bear on what you can and cannot do because of your injuries. It's important to avoid this even if you're not directly talking about activities related to your lawsuit.
4. Remove all photographs and videos of you taken since your injury, and refrain from posting until your claim has been resolved.
5. Be sure you know everyone who is your "friend." Do not accept friend requests from people you do not personally know.
6. Review your friend list and block anyone you are not 100% sure you trust. Opposing parties could pose as a friend or get information from others who are to gain access to potentially incriminating information that could negatively affect your lawsuit.
The most important point to remember about personal injury: social networking is used by everyone for a multitude of purposes and any competent St. Louis personal injury lawyer should alert their clients to this reality. Before considering whether to continue a social networking presence, a personal injury claimant should consult a skilled Missouri personal injury attorney who can provide specific guidance and instruct a client to act accordingly. If you need advice with your personal injury claim, contact Sansone / Lauber law firm today for a free initial consultation at 1-314-863-0500.
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