Why You Should Avoid Using Social Media During a Contested Court Case

Social media have become deeply integrated into our lives. People use social media to share their experiences, whether good or bad, with their friends and family members. They frequently feel moved to do so when a loved one passes away from natural causes, workplace injury, or because of another person’s fault. But what most people do not realize is that everything they do on a public platform can frequently be seen by people outside their friends list. So, if they have a workers’ compensation, personal injury, or wrongful death claim, information posted on their social profiles can be used against them by the defendant’s (insurance company’s) lawyer. Iowa courts routinely order the injured party (or surviving family members of a deceased party) in a lawsuit or workers’ compensation case to make their Facebook and other social networking/media available to the insurance company’s lawyer.

If your loved one has lost his or her life and you are making a claim for compensation for your loss against the guilty party, part of it is likely to entail that you have been affected emotionally, socially, financially, and in many other ways as a result of the tragedy. Social media posts, however, can sometimes appear to show otherwise and could be used against you in court to deny or substantially reduce your claim. This is the reason you must be extremely careful when you use social media to post something while your case is still active, if you use it at all.

You should discuss this issue when you first meet with the lawyer you have selected to represent you. If the lawyer does not raise the issue, you should! If you have already posted information accessible to others, explain what it is to your lawyer.

What Can Be Used as Evidence?

Everyone has access to social media, including law enforcement agencies, lawyers, courts, and insurance companies. The defense lawyer will review all of the contents of your Facebook, for instance, in an effort to use selected items as evidence that could be interpreted a certain way to undermine the significant emotional loss that you and your lawyer are working to establish in court.

With rare exception, posting on social media should be altogether avoided during a personal injury or wrongful death case — and even a workers’ compensation case as well — for two major reasons:

  • Their contents are discoverable: Everything you post on any of your social media accounts is discoverable – this means that it can be collected and used as evidence by the defense (insurance company’s) lawyer in a court of law.
  • Information can be misinterpreted: The opposing party can also misconstrue/ mischaracterize the posts on your social media profile, and change their meaning to suit the insurance company’s purposes of undermining your motives, extent of injury, truthfulness, etc. For example, if there is a picture or video that shows a woman sitting poolside and sipping a drink with family and close friends on a hot summer day a couple of weeks after the unexpected death of her husband, the defense attorney might comment in a sympathetic tone, “Fortunately, Ms. Smith is coping fairly well with the unexpected loss of her husband, and that’s good.” Surviving spouses don’t post videos of themselves sitting at home alone, longing for a loved one taken far too soon from his or her family.

Once again, if you think that your account has privacy settings that will prevent disclosure of the “protected” material to opposing counsel in a lawsuit or workers’ compensation case, and that no one, other than you, can access your profile, you are sadly mistaken. The insurance company’s attorney can ordinarily ask the court to order you to give up your login credentials for investigation purposes, and most courts will do so.

Tips for Protecting Yourself on Social Media

If you are involved in a serious personal injury, wrongful death, or workers’ compensation case, you need to take extra precautions to make sure your social media activities do not adversely affect your claim. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Avoid posting anything pertaining to your case, however innocent it seems to you, including but not limited to comments about the accident, statements made at the scene, anything about witnesses, who was at fault, the weather that day, and any pictures or videos.
  • Change your privacy settings, and restrict access to your friends only.
  • Do not add anyone new on your social profile.
  • Uncheck the option of allowing others to tag you into their comments, pictures, and videos.
  • If possible, deactivate your account for the duration of your case.

For more information on how your social media can affect your wrongful death claim, contact Tom Riley Law Firm today to schedule an appointment and discuss your legal options with our experienced wrongful death, personal injury, and workers’ compensation attorneys.