Your Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter profile may keep you from getting the money you deserve after an injury.
Information is flowing faster and more effectively than ever before – all without your explicit consent. While you may set your own profile privacy, other individuals can link their pictures and comments to you – all under their own privacy settings.
Evidence from online profiles is already used regularly by the media, police, and insurance companies looking to characterize you as an undesirable plaintiff and witness.
Through the course of mediation, litigation or trial, the defense is always looking for damaging information to your case – photos, videos, blog posts, comments from friends, Twitter posts, stories, press coverage – anything with your name, personality and actions clearly documented.
All of this evidence is publically available, documented by date and time, and can be admissible in a court of law. Investigators are employed by insurance companies all the time. These investigators set up surveillance alerts for your name, your families’ names – even your friends’ names. Insurance companies look at this information to:
Confirm or disprove the severity of a person’s injuries;
Confirm or disprove the ability to resume normal activities;
Confirm or disprove the ability to work;
Confirm or disprove the ability to interact with family members and friends;
Confirm the type of “witness” you may make at trial
Also keep in mind that during a trial, juries may also look at these social networking sites, even though they may be instructed not to conduct any type of internet “research” regarding the case.
Removing all content and avoiding social media and social networking sites may be the best solution while in the course of litigation. This solution, though optimal, may not be realistic.
To protect yourself in this situation, we very strongly recommend the following steps:
1. Allow immediate unrestricted access to your social media sites, postings, and content to your attorney and paralegal. This will allow your attorney and paralegal the opportunity to review and spot-check your profile for anything potentially damaging or controversial throughout your case.
2. Take a critical eye to anything – and everything – attributed to you online. This means running a Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, and Twitter search for your name and any keywords associated with you. This means removing everything with anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother or boss seeing, even if you think it’s restricted and private. Investigators are experts at taking a few bits of innocent-looking information and twisting it in a negative fashion.
3. Check your privacy settings. Most sites will allow you to actually block certain people altogether. Block the opposing lawyer and law clerk. This is not foolproof as there will be others regularly looking for you that you don’t know. Do not allow any access to anyone other than immediate friends.
4. Do not accept friend requests or answer emails from people you don’t know. On Facebook, as with other sites, sending a response to a message will grant the sender access to your profile for a certain number of days. This is a common way to get access to your profile.
5. Throughout the course of mediation, litigation, or trial, do not post anything about your case, the people you’ve interacted with since filing your claim, information or details about the accident or injury, or any compromising materials to your claim. Have your attorney review your online profiles, and when in any doubt about photos, videos, friends’ comments, do not make them available online until after the conclusion of your case.
The Rasansky Law Firm strongly encourages our injured clients and their families not to open their lives to social networking until the case is closed. Victims should pay very close attention – daily attention – to anything posted or attributed to them throughout the entire duration of a claim and case, reviewing not only their own profiles, but any information that appears in friends and family members’ profiles as well.