Americans of all ages have embraced the use of smartphones and the easy access to social media they provide. Many Americans now rely on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for the majority of their news. According to the latest Pew Research Center update, 76 percent of Americans who use Facebook reported that they visit the site on a daily basis. Sharing your life with family, friends, and sometimes the entire world may seem like a good way to vent when you have been wronged by someone. However, there are several reasons to avoid posting about it on social media sites and let your lawyer do the talking instead.
The highest use of social media information is being used against those claiming physical disability in order to levy a personal injury lawsuit. Many claims will include activities the plaintiff cannot do, such as sports or carrying out work duties. However, many of these litigants will then post images of themselves participating in those, or similar activities, and this puts their cases at risk. This is due to the fact that there is no confidentiality on social media. Any statement made or image posted on social media can be used against you in court.
Additionally, defamation suits can be sought for statements made on social media. Americans have the right to sue the publisher of any statement or image he or she regards as a false and injurious to their reputation. Finally, social media sites, including Facebook, will provide your contact information upon receipt of a subpoena, warrant, discovery order, or other requests from law enforcement. Therefore, it is advised that civil litigants completely avoid speaking about their case on any website.
Criminal prosecutors and civil attorneys alike have realized how much useful information is available on social media sites. The use of social media sites and Americans’ prolific use of them are providing information about involved parties, witnesses, lawyers, experts, and judges. Regardless of your privacy settings, more courts are allowing the collection of discovery material from social media accounts. Unfortunately, these rules of discovery apply to your friends as well. Therefore, it is recommended that you also ask your social media contacts to refrain from posting about you.
Not only that, civil attorneys are now sending friend and follow requests to anyone connected to their cases in order to gain access to more private information. As of now, there is no written rule against this, but the ethics of the practice have been called into question. Private messages cannot be accessed at all without a warrant or consent, but any public post is up for grabs and usable by the opposing party’s attorneys.
In summary, avoiding social media is the key to protecting yourself from self-incrimination and unwanted evidence during a lawsuit. This isn’t to say you should not stay in contact with your friends and family, but you need to be hyper-aware of what your content can do to your case.