Today, it seems like just about everything ends up on social media.
A lot of people share Facebook and Twitter status updates almost reflexively, and so when something as big as an accident happens to you, it may seem perfectly natural to announce it on social media.
We’re not here to lecture you for social media addiction or anything like that. (We’re not the ones to cast the first stone, anyway.) But if you have just been in an accident, you should be very, very careful about what you put on social media, because insurance companies can easily find your posts and use them as evidence against you.
Why Social Media Is Risky
By now, you probably know that it’s best to not talk to the other party’s insurance company without a lawyer present, because you might give them something to go on that could undermine your case.
But social media posts can play the exact same role. If an insurer can’t trick you into making an incriminating statement, they’ll find another incriminating statement that you’ve made to someone else… and social media posts fall into this role quite neatly.
As they used to say in World War II, “loose lips sink ships.” To that we might add a modern addendum: loose social media posts sink personal injury cases! Not as smooth on the tongue, perhaps but just as true. If you post anything careless on social media, it will hurt your case.Free Case Evaluation
You Have No Right to Privacy on Social Media
With your emails or text messages, the courts typically need a warrant to tap them. Social media posts have no such legal privilege. They are considered to be public statements, just as surely as if you had published them in a book or on a blog, or shouted them off a mountaintop.
Even if you set your profile settings to private, this doesn’t change the essentially public nature of a social media profile (although it could make it harder for outsiders to find the profile; more on that below).
What You Should Avoid Posting
After getting in an accident, it’s best to post as little as possible on your social media accounts. If possible, post nothing at all. If you must post that you were in an accident, then keep it to the bare minimum, with as few details as possible about your condition, or what caused the accident.
Even saying something like “I crashed my car” can be used against you. In the colloquial, it just means that you got in a car crash. But the other side’s attorneys will be experts at twisting your words, and they’ll try to turn this statement into an acknowledgment of guilt, saying it implies that you accept responsibility for the circumstances of the accident.
Hopefully, this gives you some clue of how dangerous social media posts can be, and how even the most banal word choice can, under the right circumstances, be turned against you. But it doesn’t stop there…
What about telling people that you’re going to be okay? This might seem like a perfectly normal human thing to do, to reassure your friend and family who may be worried about you.
But insurance adjusters won’t be in a hurry to see the human side of things. If you post anything about your accident which suggests that you’re fine, that you weren’t too badly hurt, or that you’re recovering quickly, they will use this to try and minimize your injuries.
If you think that your family and friends may be worried about you, it’s better to speak to them in private and let them know that you’re doing okay. If possible, try to tell them in person rather than by text or private message, and don’t give them too many details about your injuries.
What if you’re angry at the other driver or insurance company? It might be tempting to go on a long Facebook rant, but don’t do it. This can’t help you, and it can only hurt you. After the case is over, there will be plenty of time for writing nasty Yelp reviews and all that. For now, leave the fighting to your lawyer.
What if you feel bad about the accident and want to post something apologetic? The same goes. Unfortunately, insurance adjusters are good at turning your best human impulses against you, and an apology of any sort can easily be twisted into an admission of guilt.
In fact, you should never apologize at any time after an accident, whether in person or on social media. There’s a reason why Miss Manners wasn’t an insurance adjuster, and that’s because the same common courtesy which you should use in many life circumstances is exactly what not to do after an accident.
What about posts not specifically related to the accident?
You might be surprised to learn that even these posts can be used against you.
If you post anything at all on social media that makes it look like you might not be injured, like a post or picture where you are outdoors or participating in something active, then insurance companies may use this to say that you obviously weren’t really that badly injured.
Even if there’s a shot of you having a good time with friends, or smiling or looking happy for any reason, they might use this to try to “prove” that you weren’t really in any pain or suffering.
Yes, this is pretty unfair. Yes, just because you looked happy for one single moment in a picture doesn’t mean your injuries weren’t real, and it’s unfair to for insurance adjusters to use any moment of happiness against you that they can dredge up.
But it’s the way the game is played, and if you are wise, you will be extremely careful about what sorts of things you post on social media after an accident, and how they may impact your claims for medical bills or pain and suffering.
Even if your posts were from before the accident, they can still be a problem! Insurance companies don’t always look too closely at the date, and so they might take an old picture and use it to deny you your claim for no reason at all. Fortunately, this is usually fixable (especially with a lawyer), but it’s a sign of just how scrupulous you need to be.
What about posts made by other people? No matter how careful you are, one of your friends might tag you in a photo or a tweet, or post something on your wall, that might indicate (at least in a certain light) that you were not badly injured. You don’t have any control over what they say, and it can still be used as evidence against your case.
What You Can Do
If you can bring yourself to do it, the best thing to do is delete your account immediately after an auto accident. You can reinstate it later, once you have settled matters.
This might seem like a big step, especially in today’s world, but it’ll help you a lot. The ideal social media footprint after a personal injury accident is none at all.
If you do not want to delete your account, then the least you can do is avoid making any posts after the accident that could possibly incriminate you. Hopefully, we’ve given you some guidelines in the above section about what you should try to avoid.
You may still have some questions about what you should and should not post on social media. If you do, then it is best to consult with a personal injury attorney. They know exactly what kind of evidence to avoid sharing, and they can tell you what not to post.
If you have already made an incriminating or potentially incriminating social media post, then delete it immediately. Of course, this won’t always help, because posts can easily be screenshotted and saved forever. But with any luck, you might be able to take it down before the wrong people see it.
One caution: your attorney can’t tell you anything about what sorts of posts to take down, because this might count as counseling you to destroy evidence – a big ethical faux pas for attorneys. They can only advise you about what sorts of posts to put up. You’ll have to figure out what to delete on your own.
If you leave your social media accounts up, you can also take steps to prevent the insurance companies from seeing them. Set your Facebook account setting to the most private possible, and make your Tweets private as well.
Don’t accept any friend requests (or similar requests) from people who may have some connection to the accident or the insurance company, and don’t accept any friend requests from strangers, either. Sometimes, insurance adjusters make fake profiles and try to add you just to see if you have any damning posts. Pretty low, but it happens, so don’t fall for it!
Try not to put anything in text, either. Unlike social media posts, emails and texts can’t be obtained without a warrant, but you never know what might find its way into an insurance adjuster’s hands.
Even with close friends, it’s better to politely tell them that you can’t talk about the details of the accident, and you’ll tell them more when the case is over… but if you must talk, you should at least talk in person, and not over text.
By now, we might sound a bit paranoid. But we assure you, everything we say here is backed up by extensive experience within this industry. Insurance companies aren’t your friends, and they aren’t on your side. Their goal is to give you as little as possible, and they will not be lackadaisical in seeking this goal.
When it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media posts after an accident, silence is golden. Say as little as possible and your case will go much better for you. It may be hard to keep the silence, but remember, it’s all a game of strategy, and the longer you can stay quiet, the more likely you will be to win.
If you have already posted about your accident on social media, don’t freak out. Just take the posts down and try not to say anything further in the future. Social media posts can have an impact, but they aren’t all-important.
Even more important is getting a good personal injury attorney, who can ensure that you are properly represented in court and that none of your posts or statements are taken out of context. So if you are concerned about the outcome of your personal injury case, then give us a call today!
A highly regarded and well-respected trial lawyer, author and speaker, Reza Torkzadeh is the founder and managing attorney of TorkLaw – a premier plaintiff’s personal injury law firm specializing in complex catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases.
Reza’s performance in and out of the courtroom has earned him several of the industry’s top awards and professional recognitions, and a reputation as an elite litigator. He has earned millions in settlements, verdicts, and judgments for his clients.
If you would like a free consultation, please contact us today.