It's no secret that when you are involved in a personal injury claim the opposing counsel will attempt to prove that your injuries do not exist or are not as serious as you claim they are. In the old days, that sometimes meant hiring someone to follow you around and snap photos of you participating in activities that could prove your claims were exaggerated. While that could still happen today, it is more likely that the opposing counsel will keep tabs on you and your actions via your social media profiles. Here's how:
Viewing Your Public Photos
Any photos you share on social media may be subject to the opposing counsel's prying eyes and interpretation, especially if you share them publicly. Because others can also share your photos, they may end up on websites or in other places where you least expect them. Sharing an old photo of you and your spouse dancing up a storm might send up a red flag if you are claiming you are not able to stand or work due to an injury. The fact that the photo was taken before your injury may be difficult to prove, unless you have the original dated photo on your computer. (If this ever happens to you, check the properties on the original photo. The metadata contained there will give the date the photo was taken.) Likewise, posting a current photo of yourself taking a short walk on the beach may be misinterpreted as a day out for fun in the sun. Remember a photo doesn't need to show you doing something you claim you cannot do in order to damage your case. If the photo gives the impression that you may be exaggerating your claims, the opposing counsel will likely try to use it against you.
Reading Your Public Posts
Photos aren't the only danger of social media to your personal injury case. What you say about your life and about the accident can come back to haunt you, too. The best way to prevent misinterpretation is to refrain from saying anything about your accident or about your physical and emotional state via social media. Even old statements can cause problems. For example, if you had posted about back pain prior to your accident, the opposition may be able to claim it was a pre-existing condition. Some sources recommend deleting any old posts that may give ammunition to the opposing counsel, but this may be seen as destruction of evidence, which could lead to more serious problems. While you really can't do much about old posts, being aware of them and informing your lawyer will give you time to prepare a defense if they are brought up in court.
Accessing Your Social Media Accounts
The opposing counsel can easily gain access to your social media accounts and peruse all of your information, including photos, posts, friend and follower lists, who you have de-friended or unfollowed, and any other actions you have committed with your account. This means that even if you have refrained from public posts about your accident or injuries, but have discussed it with friends, the opposing counsel will know that too. To gain access to your accounts, the opposition will need to get permission from the court, who will order you to provide written permission for the opposing counsel to gain full access to your account.
Contacting Your Friends and/or Followers
Once the opposing counsel has access to your social media accounts, they can then contact your friends and followers to gain more information about you. They may even contact those you have blocked or unfriended to try and get the scoop on you.
Refraining from posting to social media until your personal injury claim is settled will prevent you from accidentally saying or doing something that could be harmful to your case. But, if that is not an a realistic option, use caution when posting and don't share information about your injury or your case. Talk with a personal injury lawyer for more information.