The growing popularity of social media has dramatically changed the way people live their lives. Not too long ago, privacy was very important and the thought of allowing other people to monitor every aspect of your life would have been viewed as unreasonable.
Today, social media has allowed strangers to view extensive details about your life and daily activities – and it's considered the norm. You may have never even thought about it, but what you're doing on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter could hurt your personal injury case.
Can Opposing Counsel See What I Post on Social Media?
You may think that your privacy settings on Facebook and other social media sites will prevent an insurance company lawyer from seeing what you’ve posted. This is not true. Assume that everything you post will be viewable by opposing counsel - and these people may not even need your permission.
Information can be accessed through basic discovery methods. In most cases, an insurance company lawyer could ask a judge to grant authorization to social media pages. Typically, this request will be granted.
Can My Lawyer Help?
In the state of Florida, it is unlawful for your lawyer to remove social media posts (or counsel you to do so) if those posts are found to be obstructing a “reasonably foreseeable proceeding.” What does this mean? The specifics are tricky, but it essentially means that you cannot withhold or hide evidence (in the form of social media posts) from an insurance company lawyer who is defending their negligent insured.
Further, the information posted on your social media pages does not have to be directly relevant to the case at hand - anything you post whether past, present, or future may be used by the insurance company lawyer, so keep this in mind.
What If I Remove Information Before Speaking to My Lawyer?
Your Florida attorney must advise you when it comes to what can and can’t be removed. If you remove any details prior to litigation, this action can be used against you. It is not a good idea to remove or post anything to any social media account without speaking to your attorney first.
Can Social Media Hurt My Lawsuit?
It depends. If you're claiming that you suffered a serious back injury after a slip and fall, but you just posted a picture of yourself skiing on vacation, there could be some questions in the minds of the insurance company lawyer and jury. Of course, there are plenty of legitimate reasons why you could've been out skiing that day. However, do you really want to roll the dice and explain the ski trip in front of a jury?
Aside from photographs, other things that you post can also hurt you in court – if they're admissible, of course. Posts that reflect poorly on your character aren't always admissible in a personal injury lawsuit. Although these are just hypothetical examples, there have been cases where social media has impacted a personal injury case, such as in Nucci v. Target Corp.
Dos and Don'ts of social media during a personal injury lawsuit
If you're currently involved in a personal injury lawsuit or are looking to file one, there are a few things you should know when it comes to social media and how it can impact your case
- Do be mindful of what you post on social media, what events you accept and who you add as a friend.
- Do a Google search of yourself to see what kind of information is out there. If you find any content about yourself that could hurt your case, see if you can get it removed.
- Don't let your friends post anything and everything about you. This includes pictures, tagging you in posts, checking you into locations, and more. All of these things can potentially hurt your case, and it's important to monitor what your friends post about you.
- Don't post about your accident, lawsuit, or recovery on your social media sites or blog. This includes status updates, pictures, videos, blog post updates, and anything else related to your case.
If you're involved in a personal injury lawsuit, it's important that you avoid using social media as much as possible while your lawsuit is pending. It’s difficult to determine what you can and can’t remove from your social media sites one you have filed a lawsuit, so make sure to speak with your attorney before erasing any posts or deleting accounts. He or she should be able to counsel you in the proper direction to take.
If you insist on maintaining an active social media presence during your lawsuit, make sure you carefully monitor what you post and what other people post about you. While it seems harmless, social media is often a tool that can be used against you in court.