How Social Media Can Negatively Impact Your Personal Injury Case

October 20, 2016 / 12:00 am

The advent of smartphones and social media have made it easier than ever share our lives with the rest of the world.

“Here’s what I’m doing tonight.”

“Look at this amazing lunch.”

“I can’t believe I’m in London!”

But there are downsides to all of this sharing, especially during a personal injury case. Ask any Bucks County personal injury attorney, and they’ll tell you the things you post on Facebook or Twitter can end up hurting you in a court of law.

For an example of this, we need only look to the case of Kathleen Romano.

The case of Romano vs. Steelcase

In 2003, Romano fell off her chair at work and claimed she suffered serious and permanent injuries. She sued the chair’s maker, Steelcase, Inc., in Suffolk County, New York. Romano claimed in her suit that Steelcase’s chair was defective and that her fall had caused “pain and progressive deterioration with consequential loss of enjoyment of life.”

Steelcase subpoenaed Facebook and MySpace to see Romano’s profile, including portions that Romano had marked as private.

Romano argued that this violated her privacy. The defense countered that the publicly available sections of her profiles did not match Romano’s claims about her injuries, showing that she had an active lifestyle and had traveled during a time when she said her injuries made such activities impossible.

The state Supreme Court eventually found for the defense:

Thus, when Plaintiff created her Facebook and MySpace accounts, she consented to the fact that her personal information would be shared with others, notwithstanding her privacy settings. Indeed, that is the very nature and purpose of these social networking sites else they would cease to exist.”

The court said privacy concerns were ultimately outweighed by the defense’s need for information, and ordered Romano to authorize access to her profile information.

This isn’t to say that Kathleen Romano was faking her injuries. As personal injury attorneys based in Bucks County, we know that very few personal injury plaintiffs are lying about or exaggerating their injuries.

But just as the way you appear on social media can affect whether or not you get a job, posts showing you leading a happy life in the wake of an injury may affect how you appear to a judge or jury.

Tips from a Bucks County Personal Injury Attorney

With that in mind, here are some social media guidelines to follow if you’ve been injured in an accident or a similar incident.

  1. Don’t post details about the accident on social media or on a personal blog. That includes photos and videos, as well as responses to other people’s comments.
  2. Remove old posts that an insurance company could use to halt or limit your claim. If you wrote about having back pain in the weeks before a car crash, an insurer could use this post to argue that the pain you felt after the accident stemmed from an earlier ailment.
  3. Strengthen the privacy settings on your social media accounts. You may not completely be able to limit who sees your information, but this can help limit access to old posts that might hurt your case.
  4. Try not to let your friends post about you. If someone tags you or posts a photo of you, they might be unwittingly giving the defense evidence against you.
  5. Google yourself. The defense will be doing the same, so you’ll need to make sure they don’t find anything that can hurt your case. If you do come across something that seems troubling, consult with a personal injury attorney.

If you’ve been injured and need someone to serve as your voice, contact Penglase & Benson. Our skilled collection of Bucks County accident & personal injury attorneys will use their nearly seven decades of combined experience to navigate the circumstances of your injury.

We work with clients who have been injured in car, air or motorcycle crashes, and focus on building a strong case for you while you tend to your medical needs. Contact us today, and we can get to work on giving you back the type of life you’d want to share on Facebook.