Imagine if every time you clicked “Post” on Facebook or Twitter, a box popped up to warn that “anything you tweet can and will be used against you.” SOUND FAMILIAR?
That might sound extreme, but if you are involved in a legal proceeding, it isn’t far from the truth!
In today’s interconnected world, where every little event becomes a shared public experience online, social media content is frequently being used as evidence by prosecutors and in courtrooms — and not just in criminal cases!
Unfortunately, many civil cases are being adversely affected by unflattering social media evidence these days. That includes auto accident cases, insurance claims, and other civil litigation disputes.
As North Bay personal injury attorneys, we now caution all our clients about proper social media protocol and usage before, during, and after a legal proceeding.
We find that people are often surprised to learn that even seemingly innocent or irrelevant social posts or tweets can prove damaging to their legal interests.
“Private” Is Not the Same Thing as Invisible
Invariably, when we warn new clients about social media, they tell us, “Don’t worry — we have our privacy settings on lock.”
They’re being honest about that, but the problem is that most social media outlets make it impossible to truly secure your social media posts.
Past and current content is almost always accessible to people who really want to find it. And trust us, the lawyers on the other side of your case really want to find it. They’re very good at getting it too.
Some parties in civil litigation (like insurance companies) even employ people whose job duties specifically include scouting for social media evidence to help their case!
Timelines Are Not the Same Thing as Reality
If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, you know that people’s status updates don’t always reflect real life to a T. For that matter, your feed might not be a perfect mirror to your life either.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can expect the opposing party to twist your words, pull your pictures out of context, and otherwise cast a false light on your social media activity.
This is why social media in personal injury litigation is such a real concern — even harmless posts can be misused or even misconstrued by opposing counsel to mean something entirely different!
Consider a claim for emotional distress. What if you claim to have been suffering psychologically for months, but your Twitter or Facebook timeline appears to paint a very happy, energetic and lavish style for the same time period? You may want to put your “best face forward,” in life, but you do not have to broadcast it to the World Wide Web for insurance adjusters and investigators to misinterpret!
You and I know it’s possible to suffer emotionally while still remaining positive online — and courts know that too — but this kind of evidence can still become incredibly devastating to your claim.
There is nothing more frustrating to accident victims than, after already suffering enough from the injury itself, learning that their own words and photographs are being used against them unfairly.
How to Handle Social Media During a Lawsuit
The best advice for preventing social media from impacting your legal case is simply to avoid using social media altogether until your case is completely resolved. That will be very difficult for some.
If you just can’t refrain from using social media during the pendency of your lawsuit then here are a few guidelines:
-Post as little as possible.
-Apply maximal privacy settings on every account (but realize that these ultimately provide very little protection).
-Do not post photos or text that might be construed as inconsistent with your current claims — even if the photos are old and were taken before your accident!
-Never, ever post anything about your case or the allegations online.
-Remember that apps like iMessage, Facebook Messenger, etc. are not necessarily secure.
-Avoid social media “check-ins” (e.g. Foursquare, etc.).
-Don’t post anything about your physical, emotional, or financial state.
-Keep all communications between you and your lawyers 100% private.
-Do not attempt to communicate with the other side by using social media.
Get Strong Legal Representation on Your Side
Steps To Take After a Car Crash In The North Bay
Many California plaintiffs have lost their lawsuits because of their social media activity. It is in your best interest to take these concerns seriously. Insurance companies and other defendants will scour the internet to find anything they can use against you.
Your best protection against unfair legal arguments or evidence are: (1) common sense and (2) aggressive legal advocacy by an experienced team of personal injury attorneys.
At Fiumara & Milligan Law, we want to help with your accident claim in every way we can. Call us today at 707-571-8600 OR 415-492-4507 for a FREE case evaluation.