Social Media and Lawsuits – What You Say Can Be Used Against You by a Defense Attorney
Posted on Monday, February 1st, 2016 at 12:39 pm
The American Association for Justice creates Trial Magazine, which discusses best practices for trial attorneys and their clients. A recent article on the use of social media by litigants gave ten excellent pointers.
For years, judges have allowed defense attorneys to look at social media accounts. Although this may not seem like a big deal at first (don’t teenagers allow everyone to see what they are doing on social media, all the time?), it can get very invasive. For example, let’s say you have a Facebook account that is set to private so no one can see what you post unless they are a friend. Then let’s say you were hurt in a car accident, and you sent instant messages to a friend on Facebook about the accident, but did not post about the accident on your wall. American case law says defense attorneys can force you to turn over the password for your entire Facebook account, and that the defense attorney can look through every instant message in the account and at every post you ever made to your wall, even if they have nothing to do with the car accident!
By comparison, when police enter a criminal’s home they are only allowed to look in the exact areas that a judge has specified in a subpoena – if the allegation is that they make meth in their basement, the police can go to the basement but may not be able to go through the bedroom drawers. In other words, Facebook users in a car accident have less of a right to online privacy from defense attorneys than meth manufacturers do from the police.
With that in mind, here are ten tips from the American Association for Justice to preserve your online privacy and still have a shot at getting justice in a lawsuit:
- Archive the contents of your current accounts – don’t just delete things; make sure there is a backup. Most social media sites will give you directions on how to do this.
- Deactivate or stop using your social media accounts. If you can’t deactivate, then after you archive you should delete any information about your injury.
- Turn on the highest privacy settings – make sure only your friends can see your information.
- Know who your friends are! Make lists of close friends and, if you are going to post during your lawsuit, only post to those close friends. Also, don’t accept random friend requests from people you don’t know.
- Become invisible by selecting “only friends” under the “search visibility” option in Facebook. Google Plus has a similar feature by unchecking the box for “Public Search Listing”.
- Remove all photos of yourself that are not head shots. Defense lawyers will use your private photos at trial!
- Anything you write can be used against you. What seems like a funny joke on Facebook might not seem too funny in a courtroom, and sarcasm doesn’t always come through! Think before you post.
- Keep all computers, tablets, or cell phones until the trial is over, even if you get a new one. Defense lawyers sometimes accuse you of destroying evidence if you don’t keep these.
- Don’t send messages about the case through instant messenger. Ever.
- Don’t join websites or web chat groups, even if they are about the law. Defense lawyers are allowed to troll these sites to try to pick up damaging information about you!
Lawrence & Associates – A Tech Savvy Law Firm
Lawrence & Associates is up to date on technological advances, and as a result we offer better protection from intrusive defense attorneys to our clients than many other firms. If you or someone you know had an accident in Kentucky but lives elsewhere, please do not hesitate to contact Lawrence & Associates for more information and assistance. We are Working Hard for the Working Class, and we can help!