Facebook Can Destroy Your Personal Injury Lawsuit

May 21, 2013

Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Other Social Media Sites Can Destroy Your Personal Injury Lawsuit

Facebook Can Destroy LawsuitsI am going to actually use my name in one of my blog posts, so you know who I am and where I am coming from on this topic.  My name is Jennifer Ellis, and I handle most issues surrounding social media at Lowenthal & Abrams.  It is  unusual to have an attorney who is devoted to social media law at a firm, but it is crucial that personal injury attorneys know how social media is used against their clients. I know social media, and so that is one of the reasons I am here at L&A.

Please Don’t Hurt Your Case By Using Social Media

You will have to trust that I am not exaggerating when I say to you: if you are injured, and you post on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on, you can completely destroy your case. Not because you are doing anything wrong, but because the defense and insurance companies comb social media sites to find any piece of evidence they can use that will help their case and hurt yours.

Something you think is completely irrelevant to your personal injury lawsuit, could end up being quite harmful. And that is why I am asking you, whether you are our client, or you are having your case handled by another plaintiff firm, please do not post on social media about your injuries, your state of mind, or anything related to your case.  In fact, it is better if you stop posting on social media at all during the entire time of your suit. The reason for this is because, while you think whatever you post has nothing to do with your case, it could turn out to be something quite useful to the defense and very bad for you.

Why Does Social Media Hurt Your Case?

When you post on Facebook or Instagram, you probably think only your friends will see what you are posting. And that might be true. Or it might not. Most people don’t know how to properly change their privacy settings, and social media, by its nature, is meant to be open.

Let’s say you post a picture you took a few years ago of you mowing the lawn, and you use that as your profile picture on Facebook.  And let’s say you are injured, so you cannot mow the lawn any more.  Well, because you have that picture of you mowing your lawn as your profile picture, anyone can see it. Including the lawyer for the defense. And that defense lawyer is going to claim, look, he can mow the lawn, it shows it on his Facebook page.  Next thing the defense attorney is going to demand access to everything in your Facebook account.  That could include personal information you might not want anyone to see. Or it could include information that shouldn’t be harmful to your case, but is. Because lawsuits are a funny thing, and the most surprising things can cause problems for your suit. So now we are going to have to argue about whether the defense should be allowed to see your entire Facebook account. All because of an old picture that you posted on Facebook.

How the Law Works

Here in Pennsylvania, as well as across most of the United States, if the defense is able to see information, whether it be words, pictures or videos, that is in some way contradictory to what you are claiming in your lawsuit, the court is likely to grant discovery for your Facebook account.  What that means is that everything you have posted in your account will be viewable by defense counsel, and potentially usable in your lawsuit.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound very good to me. Either as a human being who likes privacy, or as a personal injury attorney who likes to help my clients.

No Deleting Content

You also need to understand, once you post something harmful, you cannot delete it. That would be destruction of evidence, otherwise known as spoliation, and the penalties can be very serious, both for your attorney and for you, in terms of your lawsuit.

Please Don’t Post On Social Media About Your Case

So, I am going to ask you again. For your own well-being. Please, be careful what you put online. It can really come back to haunt you. To learn more about social media privacy, check out our videos on Facebook’s current privacy settings.


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