A lot is at stake when you bring a personal injury claim in court. To recover, you have to prove your damages – and they are not all dollar figures pulled from receipts. While your medical expenses and lost wages are easily calculated and based on solid evidence, other damages are non-monetary. You are likely requesting damages that must be estimated by the judge or jury. You and your attorney will argue for a high amount for emotional distress and pain and suffering, if those are applicable to your situation. But the other side will fight to pay nothing or as little as possible for these non-visible injuries. This is where social media comes into play. If you are part of a personal injury situation and you are not sure how your social media content will affect your recovery, call the Augusta GA personal injury lawyers of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. right away.
Social Media Content as Evidence
In a time when 74 percent of adults online use social networking sites, social media content has become relevant to many personal injury cases. When you are attempting to prove the physical and emotional consequences of an accident, your social media posts, tweets, direct messages, and photos may support your claims – or they might provide the defendant with evidence against you.
Social media content is generally admissible as evidence in a court of law. If the other side believes the public or private content on one or more of your social networking sites is relevant to the case, they can seek that content through the discovery process. If it is relevant and can be authenticated, then it is admissible as evidence in court.
Social media content may be relevant because it can:
- support the type and extent of a physical or mental injury;
- disprove the existence of or the extent of a physical or mental injury; and
- demonstrate or counter your claim of emotional distress.
For example, you may claim that a leg injury makes it impossible for you to walk and you will need months of rehabilitation to move around on your own again. Instead, you currently rely on a wheelchair in an inaccessible home. But if you post a picture or someone tags you in a photo showing you standing on two legs somewhere, this might be used in court to disprove your injury or the extent of your injury.
Social media posts are often relevant to emotional issues. For instance, you may claim you suffer from depression or anxiety after an accident. However, online statuses that show you as happy might be used by the defendant to claim you are lying.
Do Not Destroy Content or Devices
Speak with your attorney about social media content right away. Your attorney may want to review your current content with you and discuss how you should treat your sites moving forward. In most situations, your attorney will advise you to not destroy any of your electronic devices or delete or online content. This could come back to haunt you.
The defendant in your suit might send your a preservation letter. This is a letter telling you that they are interested in your social media content, will seek access to it during the suit, and that you should not delete anything. If you are found to have deleted or destroyed relevant evidence to the case, you may be penalized.
While you should not delete or destroy content or devices, you can make things invisible to others or enable more privacy and security settings to limit what is available to the public.
Heighten Security Settings
If you are involved in a personal injury case, you should make sure all of your social media accounts are secure. Use strong passwords. They should be upwards of 14 characters and a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Stay away from using personal information that people could guess. Do not give you password out to anyone else.
Also, if the site offers two-step verification, enable this feature. This method of security requires a person signing into an account to provide additional information than just a password.
Keep Privacy in Mind
You should have your privacy settings as high as possible on your social media accounts during a personal injury suit. Unless you have a professional social media profile, your personal accounts should be viewable by your true friends and family only.
If strangers cannot see your content, there is less for the defendant and his or her attorneys to see and believe is relevant to the case.
Suspend or Stop Using Social Media Accounts
When your personal injury suit begins or you know you will file in court suit, you should consider suspending or not using your social media accounts anymore. You have heard the statement “anything you say can be used against you in the court of law?” This is relevant to criminal cases but the gist is the same here. Anything you post online, even if it seems innocent or entirely unrelated to your case, may end up as evidence in court.
Speak with your attorney about what is appropriate to post on social media and what you should keep between your close family and friends. Depending on your situation and injuries, your attorney may want to focus on proving your damages through traditional means – not your social media posts or photos.
Do Not Discuss the Case
You may decide to continue to use your social media during the personal injury case as you did before. If you do continue to post status updates, tweets, and photos, do not discuss your case. It may not be against the law to talk about your case online, but it rarely looks favorably on you and can be used by the other side to question your motives.
An Augusta Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
If you were hurt in an accident, do not hesitate to seek legal advice about your rights, your recovery options, and how social media may affect your situation. The dedicated Augusta GA personal injury lawyers of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. can answer all of your questions and represent you in your right to recover.