Social media is a great way to connect with old friends and classmates, promote your business, or join networks with individuals who share common interests. However, social media sites also invite the public, at large, to “get to know you.” And if you are in the middle of a personal injury litigation, you need to be very careful about how much personal information you share online. Just like I’ve talked about many times before, people, especially insurance carriers, really are watching you.
Just think of a situation where an insurance carrier has captured you driving your car or unloading bags of groceries on videotape. In court, your attorney might be able to argue that the carrier has merely taped a single snapshot – just one moment in time where, despite the fact that you have multiple lumbar spinal herniations and should not be lifting anything over five pounds, no one else was around and you were forced to do something strenuous. That one instance of surveillance might not be that significant. However, if instead a carrier happens to read your FaceBook post where you are skiing in Aspen or doing a walk-a-thon for a cause, the carrier could argue that those activities are a part of your lifestyle – that you really are not that physically impaired. When you, as an injured client, describe these kinds of activities, a jury may be hard-pressed to find in your favor.
In addition to descriptive posts, any photographs you share on FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or the like, can be evidence for the defense. You might ask, what’s the difference between being surveilled on tape or posting photos of yourself on social media. Here’s the difference, if you are under surveillance, and the carrier captures you doing everyday activities, your attorney could make the case that you are doing what you need to do in order to take care of yourself or your family. But, if the carrier’s attorney presents photographs of you sky-diving, or Tweets of your adventure hiking on the Appalachian Trail, let’s just say that you probably should not expect a very good outcome.
Of course, if you let slip some ordinary activity on FaceBook such as vacuuming or lifting something heavy by yourself, your attorney could, again, argue that you were simply trying to persevere despite your disability. However, most (but certainly not all) people do not post ordinary, boring details of their lives online. What I am talking about here is the need to avoid giving ammunition to the other side. High octane activities like skiing, dancing, or running, even if your participation in them is minimal, could hurt your personal injury case. But, to err on the side of caution, while in the midst of a personal injury litigation, it is a good idea to avoid social media altogether.
Make no mistake, whatever you post online is considered public domain – you are not protected and have no expectation of privacy. Also, you can just assume that what you share online will stay there. Regardless of how much time goes by, if someone is conducting a search on you, they eventually will find posts, tweets or images you have posted. The internet, like love, sometimes, is forever.