How Social Media Can Negatively Impact a Personal Injury Case in Colorado

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Many residents of Denver and northeast Colorado use at least one social media platform such as Facebook. As recent statistics from the Pew Research Center show, about 70 percent of U.S. adults use at least one social media site, and that number is increasing.

When the Pew Research Institute first began tracking social media usage in 2005, only about 5 percent of adults in the U.S. used Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or another social media site. By 2011, about 50 percent of American adults were using some form of social media. The percentage of Americans who are active on social media has continued to grow.

Yet comments and photos posted on social media can be extremely damaging in a personal injury lawsuit. You may assume that the privacy settings on your account can prevent others from gaining access to your posts.

You may not think about your social media activity being used against you. However, postings on social media after an accident—or even being tagged on another person’s photos or postings—can undermine your Colorado personal injury lawsuit.

If you have questions about social media and your personal injury claim, an experienced Colorado personal injury lawyer can speak with you today.

Information on Social Media Can Be Used Against You in Your Colorado Personal Injury Lawsuit

Many of us have smartphones, which have apps for social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and others. This means that our social media profiles are readily available, even when we are not in front of a computer.

When you file a personal injury lawsuit and allege that another party’s negligence caused serious bodily and emotional harm to you, it is possible that your social media posts might contradict your claims. The defendant may seek to use information contained on your social media accounts against you to undermine your claim.
How can your Facebook or Instagram posts be used against you in a personal injury case?
For example, if you are involved in a serious car accident and are seeking damages for head and neck injuries, then posting a photo of yourself on ski vacation can suggest that your injuries are not as severe as you claim. If you take a trip— even a business trip with a work associate—posting language about traveling can imply that your injuries are not serious. You might think that you are posting something completely harmless, but the defendant might try to argue that your post hurts your claim.

Most Social Media Information is “Discoverable” and Available to the Defendant

According to the Pew Research Center’s statistics, Facebook is the most common social media platform. Nearly 80 percent of adult users say their daily routine includes Facebook.

More than 90 percent of Facebook users visit the site at least once per week. Instagram and Twitter are also popular, with weekly frequencies at nearly 80 percent and approximately 65 percent, respectively.

For most Colorado residents who regularly use social media, the chances are good that you have selected certain privacy settings to limit access to your posts. As we mentioned above, “private” on social media does not necessarily mean that your words and pictures cannot be accessed by people who are outside your network.

As a report from the American Bar Association (ABA) explains, you must understand that there is a limited expectation of privacy whenever you “check in” on social media, post a photo, or post an update.

The report notes that most courts have “rejected the idea of a social network site privilege.” The courts have “broadened discovery rules to include relevant social media data,” even if the poster of the information considered it private.

In other words, your Facebook posts are never truly private, and the defendant may be able to access them during the discovery phase of a lawsuit.

Tips for Social Media When You File a Colorado Personal Injury Claim

What can you do to prevent social media from negatively impacting your Colorado personal injury lawsuit?

You should not attempt to go back and delete any statuses or posts or images that you think might be damaging. Even items that you have deleted may be accessible by the other side.

What you should do, however, is think carefully about the following tips for responsible social media usage during your personal injury case:
  • Simply do not post to social media—including status updates, images, or even “re-shares” or “re-tweets”—when you are in a personal injury lawsuit. You may even consider deactivating your accounts until your personal injury claim has been resolved.
  • If you are going to keep your social media accounts open, change your privacy settings so that others cannot “tag” you in posts. This allows you to control the content of any social media messages that are linked to you.
  • Change your privacy settings so that only close friends and family members can access your information. While even seemingly private posts still may be accessible by the defendant during discovery, it is a good idea to restrict access to your social media accounts to the extent possible.
  • Never post any information about your lifestyle, your health, or your general well-being. This means avoiding any posts about where you go on trips, which restaurants you frequent, when you have a doctor’s appointment, and even status updates about how you are feeling on a particular day. Any of this information could be used against you by the defendant.
  • Streamline your social media accounts by ensuring that anyone who is a “friend” with access to your information is actually a friend in real life.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in Colorado

Do you have questions about social media and your personal injury claim? An experienced personal injury attorney in Colorado can answer your questions today.

Contact The Sawaya Law Firm to learn more about how we can assist you.

Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.