The key to any personal injury case is your injury. How bad was your suffering? What were your medical expenses? What life or work events did you miss as a result?
While this is the core, any defendant is going to make note of your character and reliability. Putting a monetary number on pain and suffering is difficult, and they'll be seeking to show that your injuries aren't as bad as you make it sound. Whenever you file a lawsuit to seek compensation for damages, it's essential to put your best foot forward and to publicly project yourself in the best light. This includes social media.
Privacy settings only go so far
While each social media platform is unique: from the now-you-see-it quips of Snapchat to Facebook's systematic privacy settings, anything put to the world through social media can be captured in a screenshot or shared beyond your immediate reach. Even with the most secure privacy settings, people you never intended can view a Facebook rant. Even after deletion.
Steps for a safe social media profile
While it's tempting to share your status and to playfully interact with friends to say you're okay after an accident, remember that others are watching and context and tone are hard to decipher online. When suing for pain and suffering, announcing to the digital world that you're "doing fine" can be interpreted very differently by a defendant than by your best friend who had to pick you up at the scene.
To minimize misinterpretation, here are tips for keeping a clean profile during a lawsuit:
- Consider disabling or deactivating your accounts
- Maximize privacy settings so only close associates see your posts
- Monitor photos and posts made by friends to make sure that you are not sending mixed messages
- Carefully consider anything you post, from an innocuous "like" to status updates and photos
- Before each post, ask yourself: who am I sharing this with?
Social media defenses
As with public behavior, remember that anyone can be watching. If the defendant questions your character or charges by using social media posts against you, attorneys can question the accuracy of the posts: not only context, but it must be indisputable that a screenshot was not manipulated to misrepresent you. It must also be relevant to the case, so the defense cannot pick any unsavory post from your past, but only those that reflect on the disputed injury.
The adapted social approach
While it's simplest to deactivate online accounts until the trial has completed, it's not always practical. Social media is a primary means of communication for staying in touch with loved ones and a lawsuit should not lead to withdrawal from the world. However, it is something that needs careful consideration when the courtroom waits.