Confidentiality is one of the most important tools our North Carolina personal injury lawyers maintain on behalf of our clients. However, individuals are often unaware how much personal information they reveal on their social media accounts. What may seem like a harmless online update could be misconstrued during the claims process and wreck an injured person's case. With so many social media accounts available to everyone today, and with varying privacy guidelines, it is increasingly difficult for each of us to maintain the level of online privacy we desire. That is why our injury lawyers created a Social Media Guide for Injured Persons, a set of guidelines we give to our consults and clients that shows them how they can prevent harming their case by using social media carefully. Or better yet, not all.
Why is it better to avoid social media during your injury case? Information you provide on the Internet is never completely safe. Today information is available instantly and from anywhere. The best thing for you to do in order to prevent compromising your case is deactivate your social media accounts during your personal injury case. Here are just a few ways your social media activity can cause problems:
- Photos. More information is delivered today than ever before, especially in regards to geo-location services and photos, which create a memorialized trail of evidence that may be used against your injury case. If you 'check-in' to a restaurant with a family member or a friend and take your picture together smiling, this photograph can be twisted to suggest you are not really in pain from your injury. Even if you are truly in pain and forcing yourself to smile for the sake of the photograph, it is still very easy for your condition to be questioned. Be especially careful of what your friends post that reflect your activity. You may rarely use your social media accounts, but your friends have the ability to tag you in statuses and photos, which can be difficult if not impossible for you to moderate and control since the information is also available on their account and viewable by their friends according to their individual privacy settings.
- Activity. If your injury has caused you to miss work, but you are posting Facebook and Twitter updates about activities or celebrations with friends and family that require you to travel and be active, there may be problems. Even though these activities are not directly related to your case, they may prompt the opposing party to doubt the level of your injuries. What about activity directly related to your case? If you are maintaining appropriate visits with your chiropractor or have just had surgery and you post information about these visits, you are disclosing information that is directly involved with your case. What if you felt your injury improved a day or two after a surgery, and then you discover the treatment was not successful two weeks later? There could be evidence on the Internet about your condition if you were sending online updates.
- Privacy. You may have extremely high privacy settings and a small circle of friends, but many social media sites have a reputation for rolling out security updates without adequately notifying users, which reveals personal details to the public unbeknownst to the user. Adjust the privacy settings for optimal protection, but don't rely exclusively on a site's privacy settings.
- Identity. Although against most site guidelines, it is very simple for a user to create a fake account. Fake identities may be difficult to detect. Someone working on opposing counsel or for an investigor may try to use a pseudonym in order to make an online connection with you and gather information. Do not accept suspicious friend requests, keep an eye on who is following you, and update your privacy settings if necessary.
- Facts. If you really can't pull yourself away from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and all the other social media platforms out there, stick to the facts. For example, if you are recovering from a back injury and 'checked-in' to a water park, make sure your status reflects that you are not participating in any rides and only chaperoning your children. Again, it's better not to maintain any online activity at all. Always be honest with your doctors and lawyers - do not exaggerate your injuries. This can cause medical treatment to compromise your health and other legal issues.