The Stealey Law Firm Blog

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Use of Social Media by Persons Involved in Injury Claims

If you are involved in a car wreck or are injured in some other fashion as a result of someone else’s negligence or carelessness, it is important that you do not discuss the incident or your injuries on any social media, such as Facebook or Twitter.  In fact, it is advisable that you refrain from engaging in the use of any social media until your claim has been fully and completely resolved.  Insurance companies and defense attorneys routinely request information concerning the use of social media by injury victims. 

Of course, some of this information is in the public domain, so it is easy and perfectly legal for insurance companies and lawyers to obtain it.  In other instances, attempts have been made, sometimes successfully, to obtain even private social media information from accident victims by requiring them to provide copies of otherwise private Facebook pages, tweets, blog entries, etc., or even requiring that passwords to these various social media accounts be revealed so that such accounts can be accessed and information obtained and scrutinized. 

Some courts, when faced with the issue of whether insurance companies and defense lawyers should be granted access to this private information, have upheld the right of privacy over the right of the insurance companies to have access to this information.  Some courts have ruled the other way, holding that social media information that is relevant to the case should not be withheld due to privacy concerns.  ANY entry on Facebook, twitter or on a blog can provide ammunition to an insurance company which could persuade a court to allow access to ALL private information, thus swinging the privacy/relevance pendulum one way or the other.  For example, if an accident victim is claiming damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, or permanent disability, and posts a photo taken after the  accident of him or her smiling brightly while on a beach vacation, or playing with a child or a dog in the yard, it is obvious that this could not only have a direct effect on the claim, but could also open the door for the insurance company or defense attorney to dig deeper into the private or non-public social media information in possession of the injured person.  This is true even if the photographed event is being read out of context or blown totally out of proportion to what it was. 

While I’m not suggesting that evidence be hidden from insurance companies or defense lawyers, the fact that certain activities are mentioned or photographed on social media sites can potentially be used to persuade a court to open up the entire can of worms, thus forcing injury victims to reveal other information that is private and personal, even though such information may be totally unrelated to the accident or injuries from the accident.  The thought of having to reveal such personal or private information can potentially put the injured person in a very weakened position when it comes to settlement negotiations.  It can make the injured person feel intimidated, angry or frustrated with the court process.  None of these feelings are advantageous to a fair settlement of the case. 

The best advice is just simply to stay off of social media and refrain from using it, period.  This avoids all potential problems, and allows for the injured person’s privacy to be protected while the litigation is in process, and also puts that person or his or her lawyer in the most advantageous position to settle the claim.

The Stealey Law Firm is based in Parkersburg WV and serves the surrounding counties of Wood, Jackson, Wirt, Roane, Doddridge, Pleasants, Tyler, and Ritchie in the legal area of Personal Injury.

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