Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or another type of social media, for most of us, they’re just a bit of fun. Social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, share photos, videos and even get to know new people.
However, there’s a worrying trend beginning to appear in the judicial system, and that’s the use of social media as evidence.
“Why is it significant?”
How many times have you been browsing Facebook and felt depressed at the fact that everyone is happier, richer, more social or has a better life than you? This is because people choose what information they want people to see. We all have one or two friends who are moaners, but if you’re one of the people that represents your life as entirely positive even when it isn’t, the negative effects of your personal injury may be viewed as fabrications and therefore your claim could be misinterpreted as a forgery.
Personal Injury Claims
Lawyer Nancy Wilhelm Morden said that lots of people are surprised to hear that whenever she represents a plaintiff, one of the first things she will tell them is to be prepared to disclose medical, employment and social media records.
Increasingly lawyers are looking for evidence in social media to put in doubt the severity or even existence of the personal injury which is being claimed for.
Imagine someone is claiming for a broken leg and then they (or their friend) starts posting photos of the person dancing or playing Frisbee in the park. That’s going to cast serious doubt over their claim. Photos can be misleading at times, because even if you’ve briefly put the crutches aside to pose for just one photo, it may be used as evidence to suggest you don’t need crutches at all, and that your entirely legitimate claim is false.
The effect can become more serious if you’re claiming for psychological damage, such as depression. Maybe your injury has left you so depressed that you can’t leave the house. So, it may be asked of you “Then why are there photos of you smiling with your friends?” Again, there is more to this than meets the eye, which judges may sometimes not decipher.
It is in our nature to smile in photos, regardless of the pain or psychological problems that we’re suffering, which means these photos (when put publically on social media,) can make it look like you are living a lie when actually, it’s a case of putting on a brave face. Your friends may have arranged a surprise party for you to try and cheer your spirits, so you feel the need to try and be “happy”. The self that people outwardly portray in photos, or even when with their friends, is often in stark contrast to the anguish and sorrow that someone with chronic depression is suffering from.
What you should do to protect yourself
Obviously the main point to make here is that you should only ever make completely legitimate and true claims – claim only for real injuries which have been incurred, and never say that you’re not fit for work when you really are.
However, due to the increasingly regular occurrence that social media is used as evidence in personal injury claims, it’s also important that you are very aware of what your social media pages are saying about you. Any public pages can be accessed by anyone – and remember that your emails can be monitored too.
Here are some guidelines of what you should be doing with social media if you are going through a claim process:
- Try to stop using it all together
- Speak to friends and family and ask them to avoid posting photos and comments – however innocent it might seem
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know – they could be a snooping lawyer OR someone trying to falsely incriminate you
- Don’t talk about your claim
- Set your privacy levels to ‘private’
Whilst social media is a relatively new phenomenon, the judicial system is still trying to understand how it can be used accurately as evidence. This is why, if you’re currently in the process of a claim, the best thing to do is logout until the case is settled.
If you enjoyed this blog post then perhaps you’d like to read “How Much Is Your Injury Worth?“?