My housemate was recently in a minor car wreck. Her injuries were minor and the other driver escaped with only a few bumps and bruises, but due to a broken wrist and whiplash (right around exam season), she got herself a personal injury attorney.


Everything seemed to be going well until her lawyer did a cursory search for her social media accounts and found a post on her Instagram about the accident. Not only was there a photo of the damage, but a caption that, according to the attorney, was dismissive and insensitive to the other driver.


We’re young. We use social media. This is part of our reality. I probably would have done the same thing! But now one of the sweetest girls I know is facing legal complications due to a momentary lapse in judgment. What can I tell her to make her feel better about the situation?


Your friend’s story is not unfamiliar to those in personal injury law. If it’s any consolation, it isn’t just adrenaline-fueled teenagers and college students who post seemingly innocuous things that come back to haunt them. Even adults find themselves in a bit of a bind after their social media is scrutinized by defense attorneys and insurance companies.


Personal injury attorneys are notoriously ruthless and can do a good job of providing counsel and representation, but there’s only so much damage control they can do if an incriminating social media post comes back to haunt their client. What constitutes as “incriminating” is surprising to many people who mistakenly believe that simply posting a status expressing gratitude for getting out of a car wreck alive won’t immediately be documented by the defense attorney.


Following an accident, plenty of people, while riding the wave of shock, act impulsively. Psychology has shown time after time that as shock sets in, people act in uncharacteristic and even bizarre ways. In this day and age, this often manifests in reckless social media posting. A traumatic event in a young brain, still not yet fully developed, combined with easy access to social media? It’s an accident waiting to happen in and of itself.


You may be confused why an attorney is concerned about an Instagram caption more than the photo itself. While publicly shared photos of accident damage are typically not a great idea in general, a caption will often add insult to injury.


Whether the language in the post is explicit or simply emotional, it can and will be used to discredit the accident victim. Grateful hashtags, outraged captions, and live tweets of a hospital examination – everything is fair game because it is publicly shared on the Internet. The words you use matter. Some experts are suggesting that alongside DNA testing and ballistics analysis, linguistics should be valued in the courtroom.


The point being, your defense isn’t only jeopardized by overtly angry or derogatory statuses and posts. Defense lawyers and insurance companies will try to track down anything and everything. They will leave no stone unturned.


In today’s digitally oriented culture, it’s not a surprise that social media accounts, often microcosms of people’s personal lives, often provide a wealth of information a defense attorney can use to build his or her case.


While you cannot go back in time and change the mistakes that have already been made, you can provide your friend with some comfort by reminding him or her that their personal injury lawyer is building a solid case nonetheless.


Since social media became normalized about a decade ago, personal injury law has changed significantly. Decades ago, the immediacy that social media platforms allow accident victims would have been unfathomable to even a whip-smart personal injury lawyer.


Fortunately, lawyers are moving with the times. Davis Kelin Law Firm of Albuquerque, NM, and many other credible firms have represented thousands of cases similar to your friend’s and understand the unique challenges of this brave new digital world.


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