‘Anything You Post Can And Will Be Used Against You In A Court of Law’, And Other Social Media Legal Tips
We should all know by now we should be careful about what we post on social media. Of course, when looking at our own social media feeds from friends and acquantainances, it may seem that some people haven’t quite gotten that message.
But in accident and injury cases, in particular, social media should be used even more carefully. That’s because anything posted on social media can be used against you in civil lawsuit, even posts you may have thought were harmless or private.
As part of the “Chats with Chain | Cohn | Clark” educational grant program — a grant and educational video program for Kern County students — a local junior high school student asked accident and injury attorney Matt Clark this question: Can social media be used against someone in a court case? The two discussed how social media can be used against someone in court, social media and personal injury cases, different ways lawyers can access social media posts and photos, and “deepfakes”. You can watch that video by clicking here, or you can read more about the issue below.
In short, defense lawyers may scour Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms for evidence to undermine an injured victim’s claim for damages. You may ask: “Why is social posting risky if a claim is valid?” That’s because normal social activity might undermine a valid claim. Here are a few areas of social media and lawsuits to watch out for:
Adjustors can use your social media posts against you: Posts can be used as evidence against your insurance claim and could even be submitted to the court as evidence. Photos of events or nights out with friends could be used against you. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on privacy settings and posts that you’re tagged in since those could be up for grabs as well. Your friends posted a photo of everyone dancing on a night out? That could be misconstrued as proof of health.
Messages aren’t always private: There is no guarantee whatsoever that messages you think are private will remain private, as recent communications are often requested during lawsuits. Even seemingly harmless messages can be brought up in a completely different light in court. Unless your communications are between you and your lawyer or your doctor, private messages are likely to not be protected by privacy laws in the United States.
Deleted posts: Do not delete evidence from your social media during your lawsuit. Although your first instinct may be to raid your social accounts for anything that can be used against you, try to avoid the temptation. If in doubt, ask your lawyer or legal counsel regarding what can be deleted. In some cases, embarrassing photos can be taken down for more public cases. Use extreme caution when doing so however, and get advice from your lawyer beforehand. In some cases (depending on your state’s laws), old content can be taken down as long as it’s preserved in the correct way. Note that incorrectly deleting incriminating content from your social media accounts can be considered an attempt to destroy/delete evidence.
Family or friends posts: As we mentioned earlier, even photos that you were tagged in could be used against you in court. Always consult your lawyer because they may recommend letting your family know not to tag you or post photos of you during your case.
Here are some more basic Do’s and Don’ts for social media use during a personal injury claim:
- The safest approach is to avoid using social media altogether.
- If you feel you must use social media to communicate with close family and friends, configure your account as private so only friends can access it.
- Never post anything about your personal injury claim or its progress.
- Avoid adding anyone you don’t know as a friend (this could be someone hunting for evidence to refute your claim).
- Usually it’s best not to delete posts (or a whole account) in case it appears that you’re trying to destroy evidence.
If you’re concerned about the content of existing posts, it’s best to get advice from your attorney.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.