While privacy has historically been cherished by Americans, the popularity of reality TV shows and social media websites has enticed many to expose a more extensive array of their daily activities to friends, family and even strangers. While social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn and Instagram have helped bring the world closer together, especially for loves ones and friends separated by great distances, they also have a darker side for those injured in Kentucky auto accidents.
The news has been inundated in recent times by stories of parties involved in civil litigation and even criminal proceedings who have had their cases adversely impacted by a poorly thought out post or a suggestive photo on a social media website. Some examples include the following:
Reviewing Social Media Sites: Insurance company investigators now routinely review the posts on social media websites to obtain information that will support a defense verdict or mitigate the amount of damages that are awarded. If you are a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, you should assume that everything on your social media pages will be examined and analyzed by insurance company investigators and/or defense lawyers.
Misleading Photos: Car crash injury victims that have suffered serious injuries which cause long-term cognitive or physical deficits will sometimes have “good days.” There have been a growing number of lawsuits in which plaintiffs have seen their damage claim adversely impacted by pictures of performing yard work, engaging in the limbo on a cruise or lifting objects. Insurance defense attorneys are skilled at using these sorts of pictures and distorting their meaning so that injury victims appear to be malingerers who are exaggerating or lying about their injuries.
Damaging Admissions: Disclosures are often made on social media sites that may damage a Kentucky auto accident claim in unanticipated ways, such as admissions regarding lack of sleep, social events prior to driving that involve alcohol and more. Because the event did not have anything to do with one’s driving, the individual making the post might not consider how the statements could be taken out of context to compromise a personal injury lawsuit.
Discovery Requests/Violations: Although injury victims sometimes presume that information they post in the private areas of their social media page are indeed private, judges are increasingly ordering that plaintiffs pursuing motor vehicle accidents claims to provide login information and passwords to insurance companies. This means that posts that are limited to “friends” and even email communications may be fair game during the discovery process. While you might think deleting an ambiguous post or photo will solve the problem, some judges have imposed sanction on plaintiffs who have deleted Facebook and other social media posts after being ordered to provide access to the defense in civil litigation. Judges have imposed attorney fee sanctions and even allowed juries to infer that such deleted information would have been favorable to the defense.
Chatting with the Enemy: There also is a risk that an insurance investigator might attempt to contact you directly to initiate a chat to obtain useful information. It is extremely risky to exchange email and instant messages with those you do not know on a social media site while involved in a personal injury claim.
Because it is difficult to anticipate all of the ways that a Facebook post or photo might be misconstrued, the best practice is to discontinue use of social media sites until your lawsuit has concluded. We also advise injury victims to consider taking down existing social media sites immediately following an accident, but this might not be an option once access to the site is requested in discovery.
If you are injured or lose a family member in a Louisville traffic accident and have questions about preserving your personal injury claim, our experienced Kentucky car crash injury lawyers at the Bruce Law Group can answer your questions and explain your rights. We offer a free consultation so call us today at (502) 489-8887 or contact us via email.