When a loved one has a catastrophic injury, one of the best fundraising tools is GoFundMe. But are there any issues with setting up a GoFundMe during a personal injury claim? While it may seem like a smart option to help with medical bills, it’s important to keep in mind that there may be legal pitfalls of using GoFundMe while pursuing an injury claim.
What is GoFundMe?
GoFundMe is the most popular crowd-based fundraising platform in the United States. Thousands of people use it every year to collect money for various causes, including when someone has suffered a severe injury.
Creating a GoFundMe account is straightforward. You create an account with a name and password, select your country, choose a fundraising category, then write a compelling story to explain why you are asking for donations. You can also add photos and set a fundraising goal so that others know the benchmark for which you are aiming. For more information, visit GoFundMe’s Support Page.
How a GoFundMe Page Can Hurt Your Personal Injury Claim
After a serious injury, many people have difficulty with medical bills and loss of income. There is nothing wrong per se with a GoFundMe page in such situations. However, there are some pitfalls to be aware of.
Be Careful as to What Content Is On the Page
There is a chance that whatever is written on the GoFundMe page will be admissible evidence if the personal injury case goes to trial. While the written statements are considered “hearsay,” there are numerous exceptions to the hearsay rule which may allow a jury to see the contents of the page.
Even if the statements do not fall within an exception, there is a good chance that the statements could be used for impeachment if a witness testifies in contradiction of the written statements.
While not a personal injury case, State v. Croghan is an example of how to screw up your legal case by using GoFundMe in a foolish manner.
In the Croghan case, a woman was accused of the crime of “inducing panic” in Ohio. She started a GoFundMe page to raise money to help pay for her criminal defense lawyer. In the GoFundMe page, she made numerous written statements about the facts of the alleged crime. The judge in her case ruled that these statements were admissible. You can guess the end result.
The Amount Received Through GoFundMe is Admissible in a Trial
Most states have the “collateral source rule.” This rule is a law in many states that prevents the reduction of damages awarded to a plaintiff for injury by the amount already recovered from a third party (such as health insurance payments, disability insurance payments, or GoFundMe donations.)
However, Alabama abolished the collateral source rule in 2010. Therefore, insurance defense attorneys are permitted to show a jury that an injured plaintiff has already received payments from a “collateral source.”
Use GoFundMe; But Do It Wisely!
GoFundMe is a fine option if you need assistance with medical bills or because you are struggling financially due to an injury. However, keep in mind that it will have ramifications for your injury claim.
If you have questions about using GoFundMe during a personal injury claim, reach out to our personal injury lawyers now.