It is rare to find a person in Long Beach or the greater Los Angeles area who does not use social media. This includes victims of all kinds of personal injury accidents. So, it may come as a surprise when personal injury attorneys advise victims to cease all use of social media after slip and fall accidents.
Following that advice is hard. The Pew Research Center, which studies social media use, says that over 70% of Americans use social media platforms. Social media users include people of all ages, genders, races, ethnic groups, incomes, and levels of education. In addition, those who use social media use it frequently. The Pew Center found that about 75% of Facebook users visit Facebook at least daily. Furthermore, at least 67% of Americans consume news via their social media feeds.
Given the widespread use of social media, why do personal injury lawyers tell clients to end their use of social media after slip and fall accidents?
Insurance Adjusters and Investigators Monitor Use Of Social Media After Personal Injury Accidents
First, as creepy as it sounds, people are watching victims’ use of social media after a slip and fall accident. If the victim filed a third-party accident claim, the people watching are those responsible for deciding the fate of that claim. If the victim filed a lawsuit, the attorneys defending against the suit are watching.
Insurance companies and law firms hire investigators to learn everything they can about accident victims. Social media is a virtual treasure trove of informative nuggets about victims’ lives. And most of it is easily available. Sometimes even information victims believe is private might be shared with insurance companies.
Information is not just found in the victims’ accounts. Investigators will search friends’ and followers’ social media platforms, looking for mentions of victims or comments directed at victims.
Even if people follow their lawyers’ advice and unplug from social media, other people can still tag them in photos or mention them in posts. Therefore, savvy personal injury attorneys recommend that slip and fall accident victims ask everyone they know to refrain from mentioning, tagging, or contacting them in any form of social media until the victims’ claims are completed resolved.
How The Use Of Social Media After Personal Injury Accidents Can Be Damaging
Second, social media use has become so prevalent that many people don’t even think about using it. They automatically check in at their favorite locations, post photos of settings and social events, and communicate with friends, family, and strangers. What might be harmless for most people can be financially devastating for slip and fall accident victims.
Social Media Posts Tend To Highlight Positive Things
Instagram photos and Facebook posts often show happy occasions and fun with friends or family. Parties, dinners with friends, adventurous outings, and holiday celebrations are popular post topics. These types of posts tend to create a one-sided view of life by only showing the happy moments.
Researchers tell us that focusing on the positive aspects of our lives is good for our health. However, personal injury attorneys might tell clients it is bad for their slip and fall accident claims.
Many accident victims seek compensation for emotional damages. Emotional harm occurs when the accident causes anxiety or depression or when bodily pain is so significant that a victim can no longer participate in regular activities with friends and family. If an accident victim claiming emotional distress posts pictures showing the victim doing things that contradict the claim, the insurance company will use that information against the victim. The photos will become “proof” that the victim is exaggerating or lying about the extent of pain and suffering.
The same is true for bodily injuries. Any social media posts that seem to indicate the victim is not as hurt as he or she claims will be used to reject or reduce the value of the accident claim.
Social Media Platforms Can Be Used to Vent and Criticize
Another frequent use of social media is to vent about something bad that happens. Many people receive needed support and affirmation from this. Researchers say that sharing common experiences and bonding over them is good for people. However, insurance companies are looking for information to support their position. Any statement about a slip and fall accident, particularly comments that blame or criticize, could backfire against a victim.
Problems may even arise with neutral statements. Once a victim posts something about an accident, other people tend to comment. While the initial post may have been a brief factual statement, before the victim realizes it, responding to comments has resulted in sharing a lot of information about the accident. Sharing that information, whether publicly or in what a victim considers to be private communications, can hurt the victim’s case.
The Use Of Social Media After Slip And Fall Accidents May Affect Victims’ Rights to Privacy and Confidentiality
The third reason attorneys say to stay away from social media is that despite what people may think and what their privacy settings might indicate, an accident victim’s social media history may not be private. And not only that—posts might be considered as waivers of confidentiality and attorney-client privilege. There are a few ways this happens.
One situation involves photos, videos, or posts that seem inconsistent with victims’ claims of physical or psychological injuries. If insurance companies find these, they will say the victims are lying. To prove that, they can ask the court to allow them to access a victim’s social media accounts. In some cases, courts have agreed, and required victims to turn over information that was shared privately through social media.
Another situation involves victims who share details about the accident or strategies to obtain compensation. By sharing this information, victims can waive attorney-client privilege. In general, anything a victim privately shares with her lawyer about the case is confidential. In most circumstances, a court can’t make the victim share that information. However, if the victim tells anyone what he or she discussed with the lawyer, that information is no longer considered private. Actions that could result in a waiver of privilege under certain circumstances include:
- Posting photos of injuries or rehab sessions
- Talking about the impact of the accident on the victim’s life
- Sharing possible outcomes and strategies
- Discussing any people or details related to the case
- Talking about how much money the victim is seeking and what the victim will do with the money.