Can Social Networking Damage Your Personal Injury Case

Posted on August 22, 2013 by

In our modern, computer-centric lives, many of us belong to social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Google Buzz, LinkedIn, etc. While these sites are an invaluable resource when it comes to maintaining contact with others via the internet, there are also some negative, less-publicized factors that need to be taken into consideration. Chief among these is that:

Whatever you post on the internet is NOT confidential and is accessible to almost anyone.

You should be aware that it is standard practice for attorneys, investigators, insurance companies and their representatives to troll social-networking sites in an attempt to glean personal and potentially damaging material about you or your case. While this information is gathered without the permission of the subject, due to the fact that the information is posted online, anyone can access and download this personal data. To be safe, assume that anything you place on-line can be viewed by anyone at any time.

The safest strategy is to avoid the social sites altogether while your case is pending. If, however, you must frequent such sites, we urge you to do the following:

  1. Set your computer for the highest privacy settings.
  2. Don’t post ANY information regarding your case or how you are feeling.
  3. Don’t post ANY information regarding your attorneys. E-mails from your attorney are for you, and you alone. In litigation, the attorney client privilege is a valuable resource. Posting information online could erode the ability to use this objection.
  4. Be sure you want to share with the world what you post: Like our mothers used to tell us when we were kids, “think before you speak (or type)”.
  5. Do not send e-mail or gossip about your case to friends/family. Once an email is sent, there is no “unsend’ button. Often, e-mails contain personal and emotional details that you may find difficult to explain or which may be inconsistent with your recollection if you are questioned later in your case. If you need to communicate with a friend or family members, keep the communications short and sweet. If you can, try to communicate verbally.  The people you communicate with could be subpoenaed to testify about your conversations and the defense may attempt to subpoena the e-mails from your friends or family members.
  6. Obviously, do not enter websites; participate in blogs, chat-rooms, or message boards that belong to the insurance company or their representatives.
  7. Be careful of any pictures you post online: Here is a scenario: A client is injured in a car accident and claims serious back injuries. After the accident, the back pain keeps the client from participating in normal, daily activities (working out, playing with the kids, etc.).  However, a friend of the client’s invites him to a baseball game. Though his back still hurts, the client agrees to go. A picture is taken of the client, smiling at the baseball game and he uploads it online. An insurance investigator finds the picture of the client at the baseball game and infers that the client is just fine, suffering from no pain.  What may seem innocuous may be used against you.  Also, be wary of posting pictures depicting use of alcohol or other activities that the adverse party or their attorneys may try to use to paint you in a less-than-favorable light to a jury.
  8. Don’t “friend” just anyone. If someone sends you a “friend request” or an invitation to join a social networking site, make sure you know who the person is.
  9. To be safe, stay away from social networking sites until your case in completed.
  10. Also be aware, that removal of contents or picture from your Facebook page or website after an accident, could be construed as destruction of evidence and a crime.

There has been a definite increase in electronic and computer surveillance by attorneys, investigators, insurance companies and their representatives. Some of the information recovered on-line can be embarrassing, but other information can be used for the purpose of claiming that your injury was exaggerated or that you are simply a flat out liar.  Insurance companies have successfully used such information; even that considered innocent, harmless joking between private “Friends”, to convince a judge or jury that a plaintiff has been not telling the truth.  Always assume that attorneys, investigators, insurance companies and their representatives peruse social media sites and blog items in order to do whatever it takes to prevail against you, even if that means painting you in an unflattering light.

You should know that attorneys, investigators, insurance companies and their representatives may be entitled to subpoena and request your home computer and laptop hard drives in order to look for information regarding the issues discussed above.

Periodically review the contents of your social network sites and keep only the “friends” or “connections” that you know and trust. Always assume that whatever you post on-line or in an e-mail communication with a friend, someone is watching and hoping to use that against you.

© 2017 The Law Office of Marvin S. Lanter, Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer. All Rights Reserved.
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