When I was a defense attorney, success in defending a personal injury claim meant keeping the award given by the court down to the lowest possible amount. Insurance companies do not expect to “win” every case. Enormous time, thought and expense is devoted to evaluating each case that goes to suit. The insurance company seeks out information about the facts of the accident, and the individual claimant, regarding his or her medical history, job history, claim history, and details regarding the claimants personal life. Social media is a significant resource for insurers to delve into the details of the claimant’s personal life, so one who is involved in personal injury litigation must anticipate that the details of their personal life that they choose to post on social media will become potential fodder for the insurers prying eyes. The items that you post on your Facebook page for a group of friends who know who you are for entertainment or enlightenment can be pulled up for display in a deliberate effort to discredit or embarrass you, without context, to make you appear to be someone that you aren’t. More and more these days, you are what the internet says that you are.
For those among us who have been injured due to the negligence of others, this is a particularly cruel weapon in the insurance company arsenal. Unfortunately, when a personal injury litigator seeks to exclude evidence obtained from social media in court, the judicial response more often than not focuses on the fact that the evidence obtained from internet was surrendered voluntarily by the person who put the information online, without an expectation of privacy.
At Charles Wartelle & Associates, we ask all of our clients to think before they post. Think not only about how your internet friends and acquaintances might respond to your posting, but how a group of strangers whose job it is to reduce the value of your personal injury claim, the compensation you need and deserve, might use it against you.