Most of my clients have at least one social networking account such as a Facebook page or Twitter handle. While these social networking sites are a great way to stay connected to friends and family and catch up on current events, they are also an excellentway for insurance companies to learn things about you that can be damaging to your case.
When you’ve been in a car accident, one of the first things your lawyer will do is set up an insurance claim to put the insurance company on notice that you’ve been hurt. This is how your attorney will find out whether there was valid insurance coverage and how much money is available to cover your injuries.
However, once the claim has been set up, one of the first things the insurance adjuster will do is run a Google search of your name to try to dig up as much dirt as they can to defend the case.
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Insurance adjusters are highly trained to try to make victims of car accidents look bad in front of a judge or jury, and even seemingly innocent pictures or posts on Facebook or Twitter can destroy your credibility–and your case–when they are taken out of context or twisted by the insurance company in court.
I once had a client who was extremely hurt when he was hit by a drunk driver. He had cuts and bruises all over his face and the accident was obviously not his fault. Unfortunately, the insurance adjuster found a YouTube video my client posted of himself bragging about how he was going to get a ton of money from the accident. This video made him go from looking like an innocent victim to looking like someone who was just using his injuries to make a quick buck. It made it very difficult for me to negotiate his settlement and would have been terrible if it had been played in front of a jury or judge. This is just one example of the many times that I have had clients whose activity online has come back to haunt their case.
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can still use social media sites without hurting your image or your accident case.
1) Use privacy settings. Most sites have settings where you can make your posts or profile only visible to the people you know. Use them!
2) Watch what you post! It may seem obvious, but do not post ANYTHING about an accident you’ve been in or your injuries due to the accident. Also: controversial political opinions, criminal activity, drug and alcohol use, and profanity or obscenity are all things that can come back to haunt you if you have an injury case.
3) Use an alias! If you just have to post photographs or statuses that might look bad to an adjuster, try using a fake name so they can’t find you. Many people simply use their first and middle name on social networking sites to avoid being found by the wrong people.
4) Clean it up: Go through your accounts and delete old statuses, tweets, or pictures that might hurt your reputation.
Try an experiment. Google yourself. Type your name (and nicknames) into any Internet search engine and see what comes up. Imagine how the results would look to someone who has never met you and whose only job is to make you look bad.