In the age of sharing everything is caring, we have come to incorrectly believe that everything that we put out on the Internet is not available for all to see.
Unfortunately, as the recently settled Federal Trade Commission Lawsuit against Snapchat and its founders have shown, your photographs and videos may still exist, in spite of what the company has told you. For those unfamiliar with Snapchat, Snapchat allows users to send pictures and videos that will “disappear forever” from the recipients mobile device after a few seconds. The Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit and subsequent settlement centered around the falsity of Snapchat’s claim that the picture or video “disappeared forever.” Snapchat ultimately admitted that the statement was not true and that third party applications allow the recipients of the photograph or video to capture and save it forever.
How does the Snapchat lawsuit affect your personal injury claim? For starters, what you put out on the Internet is in all likelihood still on the Internet. Because of this, insurance personal injury claims adjusters and defense personal injury attorneys are aggressively pursuing the ability to conduct social media research into personal injury victims lives. Because of this, you must presume that the defense insurance personal injury lawyer is checking Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and whatever other social media presence they can find of you on the Internet. The purpose of defense insurance personal injury lawyer digging through your digital footprint is simple, finding the “smoking gun.” We have all heard the stories of employees who are on permanent workers compensation disability being photographed at Planet Fitness or hoisting heavy objects from the back of pick-up trucks. In fact, a recent insurance fraud case in Pennsylvania centered on photographs obtained via social media of an alleged permanently disabled man getting out of his motorized wheel chair and walking into his house.
So what can you do if you sustained personal injury through no fault of your own and you are getting ready to hire a personal injury attorney? The simple answer is that you should act and think like an insurance adjuster or personal injury lawyer and search for anything on the Internet of you. The starting point should be to Google yourself and see if anything that may affect your personal injury lawsuit shows up in the results. Even if you are like enough to come across an insurance adjuster or personal injury lawyer who does not do this, jurors almost always Google the parties to a lawsuit.
While it is impractical to suggest that you should shut down your social media presence or hire a company to scrub your digital footprint from the Internet, you can at least make sure all of your social media settings are to set to “private.” But merely changing your settings on social media to “private” is not enough. You need to take an active approach to accepting friend requests and never accept a friend request from a person that you do not know. Finally, you should refrain from posting anything on social media about your personal injury lawsuit.