What to do about Facebook Posts

We represent a young woman I’ll call “Gertrude.” Gertrude was injured in a collision a couple of years ago. She had fairly serious low back injuries which caused her pain for well over a year and which still cause occasional pain and discomfort depending on her level of activity.

We sued the driver who caused the accident. As is typical, the other driver’s insurance company hired a lawyer to defend the case. The case proceeded through discovery, with both sides exchanging documents, medical records, and other information about the claim. Experts were hired by both sides to review records and give opinions at trial.

Gertrude’s deposition was taken. A deposition is a face-to-face meeting between Gertrude and the other lawyer (we are always present as well) where she answered questions under oath. She answered the insurance defense attorney’s questions truthfully. As we do in all of our cases, we had prepared Gertrude for the deposition. I felt she did an excellent job. A few months before trial (and after my office spent time and money preparing the case for trial), I received printouts from the defense attorney of additional materials he planned to show the jury. There were several photographs showing Gertrude hiking in the Grand Canyon. One photo showed Gertrude carrying a heavy looking backpack.

These photos were downloaded from Gertrude’s Facebook page. The photos were taken about 18 months after the collision.

When I showed Gertrude the photos, she told me that the Grand Canyon had always bee a dream of hers and that even though she was in some pain, she had wanted to do the hike. Gertrude didn’t think the photos were a big deal. Shouldn’t the jury be proud of her for following the advice of the physical therapist? While I had no problem with her continuing her activities, the Facebook photos did not help her case. I explained the problem was the perception that these materials were likely to create, and that the defense would use them to argue Gertrude didn’t suffer much from the collision and wasn’t injured because she could hike the Grand Canyon. While the case ended up settling, the defense attorney told me that had it gone to trial, he would have had no problem blowing up the photo of my client hiking with the backpack so that he could argue to the jury she was totally fine.

If you have a personal injury case, you need to be aware of the lengths to which the insurance company will go to dig up any information on you in an effort to damage your credibility and hurt your case. Although we recommend to all our clients they keep their personal information off Facebook, and set their status to “private” not all clients comply with this request. Gertrude learned this the hard way. Her mistake literally cost her several thousand dollars.