Increased use of social media has led to a rapid decline in the user’s relative anonymity and privacy. Social media makes it easy to share intimate details of all aspects of life, so using social media without considering how it could be used by big business can be potentially harmful. This is particularly true for people who have an open personal injury claim. More and more, we see social media data being used and exploited by insurance companies against people who are recovering from traumatic injury. As a result, social media is playing an increasingly influential role in litigation involving personal injury cases.
Be aware that when you post online, you do not retain possession or control of the information once posted. According the terms and conditions of use for most social media sites, any information posted online becomes the property of the website or app. Once posted, a site may share or release the information with a third party, including an insurance company.
Information posted online is not protected by assurances of privacy from the social media website or the attorney-client privilege. Insurance adjusters and defense attorneys will use anything they can find to attack the credibility of an injured person and undermine their claim.
Even before a lawsuit is filed, insurance adjusters routinely troll the internet searching for photos and status updates showing the injured party engaged in physical demanding activities (think: dancing, hiking, rock climbing, and even playing with grandchildren). This can become fodder for the insurer to try to discredit the injuries claimed. Comments and posts by friends or family may also be used to embarrass the injured person or demean their character (think: references to partying, goofy photos, or angry or emotional status updates). Websites and apps such as Foursquare and Facebook that track an individual’s movement or lets them “check-in” to locations can also provide information about a person’s activities that can be used to question the validity of their injuries.