Facebook is not your Friend during a pending personal injury claim.
Social Media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter may be great places to catch up with friends, or to let the world know where you have been and what you have been doing, but they are rapidly becoming places to lose your injury case.
“Like” it or not, when you post something to Facebook, it becomes a permanent record of your activities. If you are claiming serious injury or disability, and pictures or comments are posted on your social networking site that contradict your claims, this greatly compromises your case. For example, if you are claiming permanent wage loss due to the inability to return to your work, and you post a picture of yourself doing or even appearing to do strenuous activity, your claims may be ignored by an unsympathetic jury. No matter what explanation you provide, that picture is worth a thousand words, and may cost you thousands and thousands of dollars in compensable damages.
Case law has been rapidly developing in this area, but generally, if it has been posted to your profile, it is discoverable. Judges in civil cases are very likely to grant social networking discovery requests, especially when injuries are in dispute. All of those smiling faces in your vacation photos or from trips to the zoo with the kids won’t persuade a jury to believe your injury claims. Inflammatory comments that make you sound like you are lawsuit happy or motivated only by financial gain won’t win you any favor either.
You also risk waiving your attorney-client privilege if you disclose details about your case online. Generally, to constitute a waiver, the disclosure must be voluntary and inconsistent with the confidential nature of the attorney-client relationship and must be made to “unnecessary third parties.” That definition perfectly describes just about everything that is posted to social networking sites.
It may be hard to do, but the best way to protect your case from such intrusion is to close down your Facebook page, and any other social networking profiles you may have. Privacy settings will not keep out a subpoena. Ask friends and family to refrain from posting anything about your pending claim or litigation on their personal accounts.
It is not uncommon for insurance defense attorneys or adjusters to simply look up your profile and gather information freely. They cannot use deceit to gain access to your account, but if you have left it all out there, they don’t need to. They do not even need a court order.
Personal injury claims are getting harder to pursue every day. The last thing you want to do is make it easier for the opposing side to discredit and twist the severity of your claim. Be careful, be smart and be private.