How Social Media Affects Your Lawsuit
Social media has grown exponentially in the last decade and is a routine part of many people’s lives. It allows people to share their experiences, connect with others, and promote themselves and their businesses. However, social media is a permanent, digital record of everything anyone posts. This is why it is so important to use social media responsibly, especially when involved in a lawsuit.
Social media is never truly private. Even if your settings are configured to private, where only friends can view, the posts can still be discoverable. Private messages are also not immune from discovery. Sometimes, even deleted posts can get recovered and ordered to be produced.
Everything you say can and will be used against you
A party in a lawsuit may be required to disclose all their social media history. This allows the opposing side to comb through social media and find evidence or even misconstrue those posts against your claim. While it is normal for people to want to put their best face forward on social media, they rarely realize the consequences of their posts. Social media posts can be used to call the facts of the case into doubt. They can make the poster look bad, contradict testimony, or undermine damages.
For instance, a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit claims injuries for broken bones, chronic pain, and mental anguish. If they post photos of them being physically active or socializing after the incident, like going skiing with friends or frequently checking in at the gym or yoga classes, then those posts can be used to disprove their claim that they are hurt and cannot participate in activities and reduce the amount of money they can recover. A jury could think that the plaintiff is exaggerating their injuries and award them less money. Likewise, if a plaintiff posts a version of events related to the incident and later testifies differently, the post can be used to undermine their credibility.
How to protect yourself and your case
While this area of law continues to evolve, it is best to treat every post, message, photo, or video as if it will be admissible in court. If you are involved in litigation, consider suspending your social media accounts until the matter is fully resolved. Below are additional simple practices to ensure that your reputation and credibility are not damaged:
- The best way to avoid having social media undermine your case is to avoid posting completely
- Set all profiles to “private” to limit public access to your accounts
- Do not accept friend or follow requests from anyone you do not personally know
- Don’t post anything (no details, no photos, no videos) about your accident, injuries, or case
- Ignore any comments about your case
- Never post anything that you discuss with your lawyers
- Tell friends and family not to post about you