Unfortunately, yes. If you were injured in a railroad incident, you probably know that you may have a right to recover compensation for your injuries by filing a claim under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA). But you may be unaware that your social media accounts could have a ruinous impact on the success of this claim. Please do yourself a favor and deactivate (but retain) your social media accounts while you work through your injury.

What is a FELA Claim?

Injured railroad workers seeking compensation for their injuries can file a claim under FELA where the railroad was negligent in some way in causing their injury. In filing a claim, you can seek compensation for:

  • Lost income
  • Medical expenses
  • Temporary or permanent disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional distress
  • Loss of earning capacity

Recovery is not automatic like worker’s compensation claims (there is no worker’s comp for railroad workers), and it is important to know that the railroads almost always fight claims of injured workers. They do not want to pay fair compensation for your injury, and they fight to get whatever they can to undermine your claim.  That fight means that evidence regarding your injury, your recovery, and your experience following your injury is very important.

How Does Social Media Fit In?

Social media tends to be where we all like to celebrate the positives in our lives with our friends and family.  We post happy moments, smiling photos, pictures of us in exotic locations, and the fun that we are experiencing.  But social media doesn’t really show what is going on in our lives 24/7, and when we are suffering, we don’t generally show everyone that suffering—who would want to bring their friends and family down?  This poses a real problem when you are engaged in a fight over a claim that the railroad injured you.

Once you file a FELA claim, the attorneys representing the railroad will search for your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media in an attempt to find those happy moments to portray those as being how you are 24/7. They will then use those to argue that your injuries are not so bad, that you’re just claiming the injuries in an effort to get money, and even that you’re faking everything.

Let’s consider an example. Suppose you are involved in a railroad incident where you injure your knee on unregulated or loose ballast, and the injury drastically limits your mobility and causes moderate pain. When you (or your spouse or significant other) post a picture of you smiling atop a tall set of stairs (at a stadium or on a vacation at some famous spot, for instance), even if you took the elevator to get there, it looks like you climbed up the stairs and are perfectly happy having done it, therefore raising questions about the severity of your knee injury and restrictions on your use of the knee.  No one posts pictures or videos of wincing or limping as they move around in pain, and where the evidence is only showing happy moments, that is all the railroad will see and all they’ll want the jury to see.

What Does This All Mean for Injured Workers?

It is critically important to know that photos or videos that you share on social media can be used against you, even if they seem benign.  Lawyers for the railroad are paid to help prove that you are not as injured as you claim, that you are capable of doing more than you claim, and that you are not in as much pain or discomfort, physically or mentally, as you claim.  Don’t let them distort a few smiling moments to undermine the truth of your experience.

It is best also not to discuss the incident that led to your injury or treatment on social media, because those posts can only be used in court if they are inconsistent with your claim (in other words, they can only be used against you). Don’t give the railroad arguments based on an off-the-cuff angry post.  It is better to be thoughtful at all stages of the presentation of your claim.

In order to ensure full and fair compensation for injuries, we recommend that you deactivate, but never delete, your social media accounts after an injury or while a claim is pending. For spouses or significant others, ask that they not post about you either, though heartfelt postings about the pain and difficulties the injury has brought to you are not harmful.  Taking photos or even videos of your injury and recovery are appropriate, but these should not go on social media.

Contact Rossi Vucinovich for Help

If you sustained a railroad injury, it is likely that your employer will try to obtain information from your social media accounts. Don’t allow the railroad to distort a few smiling moments to upend your legitimate injury claim.  To preserve your claim and maximize its value, contact a skilled railroad injury lawyer now. Rossi Vucinovich PC has been helping railroad employees and their families recover from railroad injuries for over 50 years. We’re dedicated to helping injured railroad workers obtain the benefits they need to treat their injuries, pay their bills, and continue supporting their families. Do yourself a favor and contact us today to get the legal help you deserve.