Social Media and Your Personal Injury Case

We advise every client not to make any statements about their case or their injuries to anyone and definitely not to post anything on Facebook, Twitter or any other webpage about their personal injury case. The reason is clear - just like when you are arrested and read your Miranda rights, when you have a personal injury case, anything you say can be used against you. We have learned this from our experiences as personal injury attorneys in several cases.

For example, in one case, a plaintiff claimed that he had a permanent injury to his back and made a large claim for future income that he claimed he lost due to his accident. The defense attorney went to Facebook and found photos of him on vacation engaging in several physically challenging activities during the time he was allegedly limited in his activities. The defense attorney did not disclose those to the plaintiff or his attorney until after the plaintiff testified under oath in his deposition that he was permanently injured and limited in his activities. The defense attorney then let it be known that he had the photos – many of which were dated on Facebook. The defense attorney was able to negotiate a lower settlement because the plaintiff and his attorneys realized that a jury might question his truthfulness and be skeptical about how serious his injuries truly were.

In another case, we represented a young boy whose ear was partially bitten off by a pit bull. The owner of the pit bull wrote several entries on her Facebook page, including one where she recounted what happened and made some damaging admissions, including that she had notice that her dog was agitated and that she should have pulled him away from the boy before the attack. In our settlement demand, we included copies of her statements and how they were inconsistent with the self-serving statements she gave to the animal control board. Conversely, we advised our clients, the child’s parents, to run all of their posts by us before making them public. They were therefore able to keep their friends and family aware of his progress without damaging their case.

Overall, the thing to remember is that e-discovery and social media are different. E-discovery allows you to get access to internal computers of the adverse parties so that you can see emails they still have (and other files). You can only get that after a personal injury lawsuit has been filed. However, social media does not require discovery or litigation to be discovered by the adverse party. Instead, prior to bringing a personal injury lawsuit, or even a personal injury claim, you can Google someone’s name and find all of their public postings. Therefore, we do that for any adverse parties and advise our clients to remember that a statement on the internet is there for the world to see. You could be providing damaging information to the other side for free - without them having to hire an investigator. So, refrain from making any statements or run them by your attorney before making them.