Your Injury Claim and The Danger of Social Media

The first line of the MSNBC article says it all:  “Pictures of carousing can come back to haunt you.” Anyone who has used social media sites like Facebook or Myspace probably has a story or two of someone who has posted information or pictures they later regretted.

When it comes to social media posts and regrets, we automatically think of embarrassing pictures or details. The embarrassment of having your friends see you at your worst should not be your only worry. If you are looking for a job, keep in mind that prospective employers also often review such sites. What started as a little embarrassment may ultimately cost you a job. Additionally, when it comes to workers’ compensation or personal injury claims, a post can cause significant harm even if not embarrassing at all.

That innocent picture of you standing on the ski slope with your friends with the caption – “Having a great time skiing” – makes for a good photograph.  Yet, it could really damage your injury claim if found by the insurance carrier or defense attorneys.  Maybe you just tagged along on the ski trip but were too hurt to actually ski. That’s OK. However, the picture makes it appear as if you were really skiing. Now, you are on the defensive and the insurance carrier has a piece of evidence to cast doubt on your claimed injury.

When I meet with clients, I routinely advise them as to the pitfalls of sites like Facebook. I advise them to make sure their site is set to private, to be careful who they allow as friends, to not discuss their accident or condition, and to be careful with posting pictures or other information. Even the most innocent posts can often be interpreted several ways. You can rest assured that the defense will interpret them in a way to cast doubt on your claim or your injuries.

Karen Koehler, an excellent attorney in Seattle, has written on this issue as well.  Karen actually writes a letter to each of her clients warning them about the impact of social media on their claims. Karen recommends closing your site until the case is complete. I think it is probably unrealistic to think that most clients will completely close their sites. I imagine Karen also thinks it is unrealistic. So, her letter also carries a lot of good, practical advice on how to handle your site until the conclusion of your claim. Any person who has suffered a significant personal injury should be careful about their actions on sites like Facebook, Myspace, or even Twitter.

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