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Avoiding Social Media When Legal Matters Are Concerned

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You’ve probably heard the term “over sharing” as it relates to one person giving more information than good taste or common-sense dictates.   In this era of social media, no doubt many of us probably come across things that we think fall into the “Over Shared” category.    Outside of be of questionable taste, there are times in which info shared on social media can come back to hurt someone from a legal standpoint.   If your injured and have an insurance or legal claim, social media posts can be used against you to hurt your case.  With that knowledge, it is always important to inform your lawyer of your social media habits and take direction from them during any legal matters. 

Many insurers will monitor social media to identify potentially fraudulent claims or actions that may reduce a claim benefit.  While catching dishonest individuals is a good thing, an innocent post can be misinterpreted too.  If you are trying to show that an injury has negatively affected your life, an innocent Facebook post of a pleasant afternoon or activity can hurt your case.  If insurers get their hands on such posts, they will use them in the worst light possible to persuade a judge or juror that you are yet another fraudster. This is especially true if you are trying to claim emotional distress from an accident. Since emotional distress is harder to prove than physical damages, insurers will scour your profile for any posts which claim that you are happy.

Some clients will argue that all of this is illegal, and that insurers have no right to scour their social media profiles for information which puts them in the worst possible light. But this is not true. Any personal injury lawyer can tell you that in civil cases, courts allow very broad parameters for discovery.  It is perfectly legal for insurers to scour your profile, just like they could if you were applying for a job.

Furthermore, setting your accounts to private may not help you either. A judge can order you to share all relevant data if it is relevant to the case, and an attorney can gain access to your private account if you unwittingly friend a relevant party. Going private can provide you a certain level of protection, as judges will frown on “fishing” trips where an attorney demands the right to go through your private account in the hope of finding something. But you should not assume that will be good enough.

Given these facts, you may think that it may be safer to delete your social media profile entirely. But the American Bar Association notes that lawyers are not allowed to advise clients “to delete/destroy relevant photos, links, texts, or other content, so that it no longer exists”. Such an action can cause judges and jurors to be more suspicious as they think you have something to hide and can in fact be a criminal action. And with new forensic techniques, little is ever permanently deleted from the Internet or social media.

The simplest thing to do is to stop posting altogether. Just like not talking to the police will never hurt your criminal case, not posting on social media will never hurt your personal injury case.  If you do intend to post, carefully scrutinize what you post. Avoid talking about your case or giving updates to your recovery status, as that can be construed to contradict what is being said in the courtroom. Never post pictures or videos doing social or physical activities. Even if you are straining to get around, that will not be apparent in any photograph. And never, ever, ever make ridiculous jokes or sarcastic statements about any of the above topics, as a judge or attorney will often take such remarks at face value. If you are uncertain about a certain post, either discuss with your lawyer about whether it will be appropriate or do not post it.

Also remember that insurers may also check your friends and family’s accounts on top of yours for incriminating information. Tell them that you may be posting less to protect your privacy and discuss the above guidelines with them.  Friends and family should consult with you before they post or tag anything relating to you or your injury on social media.

These guidelines may seem restrictive and unnecessary at first. But in fact, a personal injury case should teach you why it is important to protect your privacy and serve as an opportunity to practice better social media habits. A silly Facebook post should not prevent you from getting the compensation and care that you deserve. If you or a loved one are involved in an accident, call our offices for help.   With over 40 years of experience, we’ll work one on one with you to ensure you get the justice you deserve.