For better or worse, social media has transformed American culture and our personal relationships. It has even been used to dictate foreign policy by the U.S. President. We use social media to let others know if we are dating, starting a new job, having a baby, or lounging on a beach in Maui. But can social media usage affect a car accident claim?
Case Example: A Night Out in Tampa
For example, you were traveling on Sheldon Road in Tampa two weeks ago and collided with another vehicle at Waters Avenue. Or you had an accident on Waters Avenue at the intersection with Anderson Road. These are among Tampa’s most dangerous intersections, but the accident was the other party’s fault. You damaged your knee and suffered severe back and neck strains.
Of course, you want your friends and family to know what happened and how you are doing. You have a Facebook account along with Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Tumblr. You begin posting messages that you had a car accident while driving home from a local bar after having a few beers and include photos of yourself smiling, a beer in your hand, standing without crutches.
One post states that you are feeling good and are skipping work again, that the pain medications that belong to your mother are working just fine, and are off to meet some friends at a local brewery.
You met with a personal injury lawyer two days ago who has notified you and the other party’s insurers that you have an injury claim and advised them that you expect to incur substantial medical expenses and lost income. You are now eagerly looking forward to a trip to Hawaii in about six months or so from the compensation you expect from your claim.
How Social Media Affects a Car Accident Claim
Without intending to do so, you have seriously jeopardized your car accident injury claim. How could just a few simple online posts have caused your car accident lawyer such anguish?
Never Discuss the Accident
A cardinal rule for car accident victims is to never discuss the facts or details of an accident with anyone except your lawyer and the police officer at the accident scene. For instance, what if the other driver at the scene told police that you had said you were fine, apologized for the accident, or just said that you never saw the defendant’s car?
Even if you said something slightly different, the police could determine you were partially at fault for the accident based on your statements. An insurance company will seize on these statements to assert that you caused the accident, or are partially at fault and that your injuries are minimal at best.
Similarly, in the above example regarding your social media posts, you all but admitted to drunk driving and illegally using prescription medication. Even though your doctor has you on crutches, the fact that you are photographed without them suggests that your knee injury is not serious. You also admitted to skipping work, and are now off to drink again, which suggests a reckless lifestyle.
In many accidents, investigators may be retained to immediately search your online presence. Their sole purpose is finding incriminating comments or photographs that insurance adjusters and defense attorneys will use to deny your claim or make a token settlement offer.
Never Discuss Your Injuries
An experienced personal injury lawyer will advise you to avoid social media for the duration of your claim. However, the temptation is too great for many people. If you must post something, merely state that you were in an accident two weeks ago. Do not describe your injuries, your treatment, what you are doing, who your doctors are, what it is costing you, or even who your lawyer is.
If your state in a post that you are walking without crutches or no longer need them, but your medical records indicate otherwise, this is evidence that an insurer will claim shows that you are malingering or faking your symptoms for financial gain. This can only result in a tortured explanation of why you posted these comments.
Also, do not discount what friends can post about you. Someone could ask if you further injured your knee that you struck when you fell on the sidewalk just days before this accident, or that he warned you about driving home the night of the accident.
Further, if an insurer suspects you are fabricating or exaggerating your injuries, it can hire investigators who will follow you and take videos and photos of you walking and working in your yard or garage, and engaging in other activities that you or your medical records allege you are unable to perform.
Are Social Media Sites Private?
You can avoid having investigators view your social media sites by setting them to ‘private’ or for friends only. For Twitter and Instagram, require users to have your permission to follow you.
However, if your injury claim does not settle and your lawyer must file it in court, defense attorneys are entitled to access your private media sites. This is because you have placed your physical condition as an issue in your claim, and whatever you write or post, even if meant to be private, is not shielded since it is material to the defense of your claim.
The lesson here is to not surrender to temptation by posting about your accident. Refrain from any mention of how it happened, your injuries, treatment, how you are progressing, or any other details.
What About Social Media Posts After Settlement?
Now that your accident claim has settled, and you have recovered substantial compensation, you are eager to tell everyone how it ended up. But your claim was against a company that manufactured a defective car seat or the airbag that failed to deploy. In your settlement agreement, there is a clause that states that you are not to reveal any terms, details, or figures of the settlement agreement.
These clauses are not typical of routine car accident settlements but are often found in negligence claims against manufacturers since they will not admit liability. But if you or even a family member decide to tell friends or the world that you just received a certain amount of money from a company in a settlement for their defective car seat, you likely just forfeited the entire settlement you received, and you will have to return it.
Retain the Law Offices of Steinger, Greene & Feiner
For any Tampa car accident injury claim, the attorneys at Steinger, Greene & Feiner have the skills, resources, and knowledge you need if you want the most compensation for your injury claim. A veteran Tampa car accident lawyer from our office will discuss all aspects of your claim, including your use of social media and why you should avoid using social media until your accident claim is resolved.
Call our office today at (813) 553-5352 for a free consultation about your injury claim.