This is the third segment of a series regarding social media in personal injury suits that focuses on protecting your social media profile from being used against you. Courts usually consider a motion to produce information from social media in a similar manner that they do with any evidence. Discovery involving social media is considered by the same set of legal principles as traditionally requested data, meaning it must be relevant. Often the publically viewable information from a social media account must have relevancy for courts to consider that access to the private information is allowable. Privacy rights are considered; however, if there is a definite need for this information, it will tend to be applicable for discovery.
How Social Media May Harm a Plaintiff's Injury Case
Avoid posting photos of an accident scene on social sites. Naturally, accident posts prompt injury-related discussions, which could be detrimental. For example, often injuries take a day or two to surface such as soft tissue injuries, minor fractures, and mental conditions. It is possible that others post comments like “at least everyone is OK,” which even if you do not affirm, could be potentially damaging. Another consideration is that posts regarding the case are very easily accessible and require minimal cost and effort. The defense can be potentially gathering information about your recreational, social and occupational happenings any time of day.
State of Mind, Persona & Memory
Social media users generally project a positive outward appearance (persona) to others. If the plaintiff in a case is claiming they are enduring significant pain, emotional distress, and a lack of normalcy, your public profile may unintentionally harm you. Also, remember that many personal injury cases take several years to be concluded; therefore, older posts that contain statements you made relative to the incident could be used to contradict what you state in court to “based on your recollection.” This is an example of a tool the defense could use to show a lack of credibility or simply imply that you are not being honest.
Review & Assess Privacy Options & Settings
The vast majority of social profile sites have what may be referred to as privacy options, customizable settings, or accessibility preferences. You should first access (view) your profile as a guest to see what information is viewable to the general public. Next, consider what adjustments you should make to the settings to limit access from unknown members of the public. Also, conduct a general search within each media platform you use to see what information about you is revealed to those specifically attempting to locate information about you.
Posting Extended Work History
On many sites, you may post a history of your previous employers and positions held. This information could potentially be providing an opposing party in a case an opportunity to use this data against you. For example, perhaps the defendant knows someone who worked at one of your old employers that you knew who has an old grudge. Another example would be a social profile that you have not managed for a few years that shows you as currently employed in a position, yet you are claiming that your injuries prevent you from working.
Your social media profile likely contains comments posted from others. It is impossible to control all comments that someone could potentially make to your profile. It is possible that a sarcastic or light-hearted comment from another user could be misconstrued or misinterpreted and be viewed negatively. Make sure to make adjustments to the comment settings or temporarily disable them all together.
How Sites Use Your Information
Most of the social media sites are free to join. In order for the site to sustain itself, it may rely on advertising revenue directed to their users. We have all seen the very long user agreements that explain what can and cannot be done with your information when you are a member, but it is doubtful that most people will read all the fine print and interpret the disclaimer. For this reason, it is best to always remember to avoid posting anything that ultimately could be used against you online relating to a personal injury case.