The Relationship Between Social Media and a Personal Injury Case in Iowa

A personal injury law book in Iowa containing matters related to social media.Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok, social media has become a worldwide phenomenon. According to the Pew Research Center, around 72% of Americans use some form of social media. Unfortunately, the excessive use of social media has also made it easy for people to violate your privacy, even when you least expect it.

When victims of injury decide to post, many don’t realize that the defense is actively searching for compromising information. The result, in many cases, is the insurance company denying the claim or a court dismissing it. Here are some things you need to know about the connection between social media and a personal injury case.

How Social Media Can Impact a Personal Injury Case

When it comes to social media, it’s important to keep in mind that not everything you post is private. In many cases, the defense may hire a private investigator or company to evaluate your post history for any excuse to call your credibility into question. Anything you say or do on social media may be used against you, even if it seems irrelevant at first. Simple utterances or contradictions might be misconstrued as an admission of guilt, jeopardizing your claim.

For example, let’s say you suffer a hip injury after a slip and fall at the grocery store. After you make your claim and receive some treatment, you return to some normal activities. A month after your injury, you post a selfie of you walking your dog. The defense finds this picture and uses it to show the jury that your injury was minor. They also argue that your injury isn’t worth your current settlement demand. If the defense convinces the jury, you end up with a smaller settlement than you anticipated. In a worst-case scenario, the court may outright deny compensation.

If you think this is an exaggeration, consider the case of Dominique Sharpton, daughter of prominent civil rights activist Al Sharpton. In 2015, Sharpton sued the city of New York for $5 million after injuring her ankle on cracked pavement the year before. Instead of exercising caution, Sharpton continued to post on social media. Then, in May 2016, she shared a picture of her hiking a mountain in Indonesia. She also posted pictures of herself in high heels and climbing a ladder to decorate a Christmas tree. Even though Sharpton’s injury was serious, the defense used this as a basis to reduce her settlement to $95,000.

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media for Personal Injury Clients

Based on the many real-life examples, it’s clear that posting on social media and a personal injury case don’t mix well. To prevent the defense from getting any incriminating information to use against you, we recommend doing the following:

  • Update your privacy settings on all accounts. Sometimes, plaintiffs don’t realize that their accounts are set to public. If you file a claim, make sure to set all of your social media accounts to private or friends only.
  • Ask friends and family not to post anything about you. Sometimes, plaintiffs don’t have posts on their accounts that may contradict their claim. Despite this, if your friends or family have posts about your activities, those might also be attainable by the defense.

Once you complete these steps, it’s best to step away from social media for the duration of your case–don’t post anything online. However, if you need to use social media out of necessity for communication, there are a few precautions you should take. While pursuing your case:

  • Don’t post anything related to your claim on social media, whether it’s about your accident, injury, doctor, attorney, or the defense;
  • Refrain from uploading pictures or videos of yourself or your injury; and
  • Avoid talking to friends, family, or acquaintances about your injury through online chats.

By following these simple steps, you can save yourself a lot of potential headaches and setbacks with your case. It may be difficult to avoid social media for the entire length of your case, but it may ultimately lead to a less stressful experience.

Social Media and a Personal Injury Lawsuit: A Risky Combo in Iowa

No matter what type of personal injury case you pursue, it’s incredibly risky to use social media at the same time. Even small statements about a good day or a regular activity may convince the defense that your injury isn’t serious. Unfortunately, it’s easy for any of us to make a mistake, especially if it goes unnoticed.

In Iowa, posting on a social media account set to private still isn’t advisable. This is because the defense just needs to show the judge that what might be hidden on your profile is relevant information for the case. For example, if a private investigator finds you tagged in a post about doing physical activity on a friend’s page, that may be enough to make your profile “discoverable.” At that point, even if your profile is set to private, you may be ordered by the judge to reveal your posts. This fact alone is why many lawyers recommend temporarily deactivating or logging out of social media accounts.

Injured Due to Another’s Negligence? You’re Not Alone

At 303 Legal, P.C., we understand how difficult and overwhelming a personal injury claim can be. Whether it’s finding the right treatment or covering your social media trail, your case may be hard to navigate. We’re here to listen and support you through every step of the process, providing you with honest, compassionate service.

To schedule an appointment with a legal practitioner, give us a call or contact us online. We’re proud to serve clients throughout Iowa from our practice in Cedar Rapids.