How Insurance Companies Use Social Media Against Plaintiffs

Attorneys for defendants and insurance companies often utilize social media posts as powerful tools in legal cases, particularly to challenge the credibility and claims of plaintiffs. In personal injury lawsuits, for instance, defense attorneys and insurance company lawyers scrutinize plaintiffs’ social media activity to find evidence that contradicts their claims of injury, pain, and suffering. Here are several ways attorneys use social media posts against plaintiffs, and what you can do to prevent falling into this trap if you are injured.

Contradicting Injury Claims

  • Activity Evidence. Plaintiffs in personal injury cases often claim severe physical limitations and pain. Attorneys search for posts or photos showing the plaintiff engaging in activities that contradict these claims. For instance, a plaintiff claiming a debilitating back injury might be undermined by photos of them participating in sports, lifting heavy objects, or dancing at a party.
  • Inconsistencies in Behavior. Even minor activities can be scrutinized. A post about attending a social event, traveling, or engaging in hobbies can be used to argue that the plaintiff’s injuries are not as severe as claimed. This evidence can diminish the plaintiff’s credibility and suggest they are exaggerating or falsifying their injuries.
  • Emotional State. In cases where plaintiffs claim emotional distress or psychological trauma, their social media posts can be used to counter these assertions. Posts reflecting a happy, carefree, or social lifestyle may be presented to suggest that the plaintiff is not experiencing the severe emotional distress they claim.
  • Public Statements. Plaintiffs may make statements on social media that contradict their legal claims. For instance, a post expressing excitement about returning to work or resuming normal activities can undermine claims of ongoing emotional or psychological difficulties.
  • Financial Discrepancies. If a plaintiff claims financial hardship due to their injuries, attorneys may look for evidence of extravagant spending or a lavish lifestyle. Posts showing expensive vacations, new purchases, or frequent dining out can be used to argue that the plaintiff’s financial difficulties are not as severe as claimed.
  • Work and Income Evidence. Social media can reveal information about the plaintiff’s work activities and income. Posts about job promotions, new business ventures, or work-related accomplishments can be used to challenge claims of lost income or an inability to work.
  • Timeline Verification. Social media activity can help establish a timeline of events. Attorneys use timestamps on posts to verify the plaintiff’s account of events or to contradict their testimony. Discrepancies in the timeline can raise questions about the plaintiff’s credibility.
  • Behavioral Patterns. Patterns of behavior observed through social media can be used to argue that the plaintiff’s post-accident lifestyle has not significantly changed, thus challenging the severity of their claimed injuries or trauma.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

While social media evidence can be compelling, its admissibility in court depends on various factors, including relevance, authenticity, and whether it was obtained legally. Attorneys must ensure that social media evidence complies with legal standards and is not obtained through deceptive means.

Attorneys must navigate ethical boundaries when gathering social media evidence. They cannot use false identities or engage in deceptive practices to access private information. However, they can review publicly available posts and information shared by mutual connections.

Given the potential for social media posts to be used against them, plaintiffs are often advised to limit their social media activity during litigation. They should set strict privacy settings, avoid discussing their case online, and refrain from posting content that could be misinterpreted or taken out of context.

Attorneys use social media posts as a strategic tool to challenge plaintiffs’ claims by highlighting inconsistencies and contradictions in their accounts. This practice underscores the importance of mindful and cautious social media use, particularly for individuals involved in legal disputes. Social media content can significantly impact the outcome of a case, affecting the plaintiff’s credibility and the perceived validity of their claims.

At Barber & Associates, we work with our clients to develop a robust plan to shield them from unnecessary stress due to social media use.  Give us a call today to discuss your case.