Social media posts have become part of the fabric of our lives—Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and more. We share inspiration, frustration, and news, oftentimes freely and publicly. While social media sharing can increase our connectedness, it can also pose big problems if you’re dealing with a legal issue—a disability claim, personal injury compensation, business dispute, divorce, and other matter.
Graham & Graham reminds you that you have almost no right to privacy on social media, particularly when “the law” gets involved. People’s online portrayal of their lives tends to differ from reality, but as far as investigators are concerned, your posts are public records and potential evidence. An isolated picture or post taken out of context can impact an existing case or even lead to a lawsuit.
Our lawyers have witnessed all that can go wrong when social media use is introduced in trials, court settlements, insurance company negotiations, and beyond. We tell clients: what you say or display on social media can and will be used against you, as the following examples make clear.
Social Media and Personal Injuries
In one case, during a sworn deposition, a Graham & Graham client testified that her life had been ruined because of her injury. After detailing the difficulties she was experiencing, the defense attorney presented pictures taken from the client’s Facebook page that showed her on vacation enjoying herself at the beach. The photos negatively impacted the valuation of her injury when it came time to settle the matter.
In another personal injury matter, a client claimed she had a permanent nerve injury to her foot that caused constant pain and discomfort. Her Facebook page, however, detailed how she had rediscovered her love for running. She posted daily messages about how many miles she logged and linked a step tracker app to her Facebook feed. This daily diary went completely against what she was telling her medical providers and severely damaged her credibility.
Social Media and Workers’ Compensation
Graham & Graham handled a workers’ compensation case in which the client had been off work due to a back injury. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation fraud investigators looked at his Facebook page—as they typically do in all cases—and found pictures of the client holding another person on his shoulders. Ultimately, the pictures ruined his case.
Beware Online Legal Land Mines
Social media posts can impact any kind of claim. For example, in the initial stages of a Social Security Disability claim, Social Security can investigate any claim that they feel might involve fraud. Information on Facebook and other sites may be used to support allegations of fraud and deny claims.
Businesses can also face myriad of legal issues arising from social media use. Matters involving intellectual property, employment, defamation, contracts, and privacy are potential legal landmines for business owners.
Even when an account is set to private, the defense can subpoena social media records during the discovery process. This includes posts, videos, private messages, and information from account-linked apps.
Facebook and other platforms increasingly use facial recognition software that automatically identifies photo subjects. In addition, new tools scan social media networks and track targets across different platforms. The burgeoning field of social media investigation allows online sleuths to pull data from websites for use in court cases, domestic investigations, custody cases, and criminal matters.
Before You Post, Speak With a Lawyer
Individuals and businesses need to exercise caution when navigating the brave new world of social media. For example, we never recommend deleting your account once you become involved in a legal matter or a case is filed. The repercussions can be equally bad if it appears you are trying to purposely destroy evidence.
If you have questions or need advice about how social media can impact a legal matter, contact Graham & Graham for a free case review.