By: Teresa Gallucci
Social media now plays a large part in everyone’s daily routine and has become a powerful set of communication tools. These programs allow the sharing of all parts of a person’s life instantaneously, and it seems just about everyone is posting, tweeting, etc., every single day. While these connections are a valuable way to keep in touch with others and share a piece of one’s own life with the world, how does utilization of social media affect you if you are involved in an accident and injured? Here at Brown & Crouppen, we have some advice we give to our clients about how to navigate this very situation.
First, you should confirm which social media sites and platforms you utilize. We will ask our client for this information so we know where additional information regarding the claim could be found. Once your list of social media profiles is complete, it is important that you check your security settings on each profile. You should make sure those settings are at the highest security level, make your profile(s) private if possible, and see if you can limit who may view or search for those profile(s) and the information on them. It is a fact that searches for claimants on social media platforms are performed by insurance companies and adjusters, other parties to the claim, investigators, etc. Our office will also conduct these searches as needed to confirm that we have copies of any publicly available information from our client’s profiles, that our client has taken the necessary precautions to protect their profile(s), as well as searching for information from any other parties to the claim.
Likely the best overall tip is that you should not post any information about your accident and/or injuries on your social media profiles. Keeping these details off those platforms will greatly help you keep that information private and will help control the flow of information to others. It is important to keep the dissemination of this information as limited as possible so you can confirm who was told what details, or who is aware of what information, as these will be important questions down the road.
The phrase, “The Internet is forever,” is truer than not these days because once your information goes out online, it is more than likely available to just about anyone, anywhere, anytime. You might ask how that can be if programs, say Snapchat, do not store messages or posts for long periods of time. While that may be the basic nature of the program platform, all it could take is one screen shot grabbed by someone to confirm a post was made containing incident details, or other information affecting you and your claim. What may not seem like a major tidbit of information to you right now could be just what an insurance carrier is looking for to create doubt and discredit your claim.
If you have already made a post, tweet, or shared any information about your accident and/or injuries, it becomes even more imperative that the security settings for your profiles are updated and as private as possible. We would recommend that you keep a copy of any posts and/or comments made should it be needed for a review during your claim. You should also let your attorney and paralegal know of the situation; your legal team will be able to provide further directions about how to handle the matter. From that point forward, it is important that no other posts or mentions are made on those social media platforms about the accident or your injuries.
You should also know that those posts, conversations, comments, photographs, etc., shared by a claimant will become discoverable as a part of the litigation process. When we say “discoverable”, it means that if a lawsuit is filed, attorneys representing the parties can request and obtain copies of those social media account posts, conversations, comments, photographs, etc., to review if they were or are made. What might seem like a harmless conversation over a photograph of a damaged car or someone’s cast can lead to the inclusion of that information as a part of the case. It can also mean that those other people who are a part of those conversations may be identified and asked to give testimony about what details they know about the accident, injury claim, or claimants.
Social media can be a great way to connect with others, share information, and entertain yourself during your day. However, as use of those services increase in frequency and amount of information we share, using those platforms has become something to carefully consider. You must make sure that you are exceedingly careful about your own social media habits after an accident to protect yourself, your own claim, and others who may become involved as a result. Brown & Crouppen remains ready to help our clients navigate these new challenges to the claim process, so please let us know if we can help you.
Teresa Gallucci is an experienced Litigation Paralegal with Brown & Crouppen, P.C., working in the Complex Personal Injury Department. Ms. Gallucci handles cases in both pre-litigation and litigation stages, from opening through trial. Ms. Gallucci is a member of the Complex Personal Injury Department Training Team, helping to train new hires and assist all staff through the process of handling personal injury claims for our clients. In addition to prior degrees, Ms. Gallucci received her B.S. in Paralegal Studies from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale in 2007 and has been a practicing paralegal since 2008.