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Facebook posts can be fatal to your personal injury case

These days, most attorneys will tell their clients to stay off social media until well after their lawsuit is settled. A few wrong words can fatally damage your case far too easily.

Unfortunately, that advice sometimes comes a little too late—the damage may already be done, lurking among your old posts.

That's the lesson a Pennsylvania woman just learned the hard way after her lawsuit was dismissed in part because of a Facebook post where she told people that she'd suspected since 2007 that she'd been misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis instead of Lyme Disease.

The problem? She didn't file her medical malpractice lawsuit until 2012, exactly two years after she received an official diagnosis of Lyme Disease. She alleged that she'd even delayed seeking confirmation of the new diagnosis for several months because she "didn't believe it."

However, a careful scrutiny of her Facebook posts from 2010 showed a post where she announced that she had been "telling everyone for years" that she had Lyme Disease.

Aside from the obvious contradiction between what she posted on Facebook and what she claimed in her legal filings, this created another issue for her case—one that the judge found insurmountable.

Personal injury lawsuits are governed by a statute of limitations, or time limit to file, that starts counting from the time of injury. Once that time limit runs out, you can't file a claim. These statues exist to protect people from being hauled into court over a decades-old car accident or some other long-forgotten event. In most states, that statute of limitations is two years (although Rhode Island's happens to be three years).

There is an exception that will stop the clock from ticking, known as the Delayed Discovery Rule, which often comes into play with medical malpractice cases like the case in question—simply because victims often don't realize they've been harmed or misdiagnosed for many years. The clock only starts moving when the victim either knows or should have reasonably known that they were somehow harmed.

In this case, the Pennsylvania woman was relying on the 2010 date of diagnosis—but her own Facebook post indicated that she had long believed she was misdiagnosed. She simply hadn't sought out a new opinion for quite a while.

This is an important lesson for anyone considering filing a personal injury claim—check your posts before your make claims in court that contradict your case.

Source: Law Newz, "Lyme Disease Lawsuit Dismissed Because of Facebook Post," Alberto Luperon, Dec. 28, 2016

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