Social media is everywhere and, more and more, users are turning to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter among others to share thoughts and ideas.
If you have a legal claim or lawsuit pending, what you share on these sites – regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant in the lawsuit – can have a significant impact on your case.
Upon receipt of a new case by a claims handler or law firm, social media is one of the first sources of information. Most lawyers investigate the parties involved as well as any news posts about a particular incident by looking at popular social media sites.
Take for example a car accident case. The plaintiff, an injured driver, sues the defendant and alleges that the defendant is responsible for the accident and resulting injuries. It is likely that the claims adjusters and lawyers involved will look up not just the parties’ social media sites but also any known witnesses.
Did anyone post about the accident? Did anyone post anything just prior to the accident? Would any social media posts after the accident support or differ from allegations made during the case?
If there are allegations of alcohol involvement, finding posts about what someone was doing earlier in the day can make or break a case. Are their posts talking about going out or attending a party? What about showing someone in a bar or holding alcoholic beverages? This is critical evidence where alcohol is alleged to be a factor in an accident.
Further, if someone is alleging injuries, the posts they make on social media can tell a very different story than what is being claimed.
In my first few years practicing law, Facebook was a fairly new tool for investigation. I was defending lawsuits in Florida and had a plaintiff who suggested he had severe physical and mental injuries as a result of a fairly minor car accident.
During the next six to eight months, we watched him take dozens of trips to Disney, posting photographs of himself on Facebook riding rollercoasters and thoroughly enjoying himself. The posts on his public social media site clearly contradicted the claims he was making in the lawsuit.
In cases of a significant accident involving serious injuries or death, news sources will often run these stories on their social media sites allowing comments. The comments sometimes include valuable information.
For example, people with information will often post about it in the comments. Witnesses who saw a vehicle driving erratically just before an accident to those who witnessed the accident itself will often comment in these sections.
Also, those who know the involved parties will often comment about those parties, perhaps giving additional information about the parties.
Social media is the new norm, and it can be a treasure trove of information, particularly if you are involved in a lawsuit. Remember, always think before you post.
Deedee Gasch has over a decade of experience litigating catastrophic claims involving serious injury or death. While Deedee’s practice is primarily focused on the defense of premises liability, trucking and commercial vehicle accidents, and medical malpractice, she also has a wide range of civil litigation experience. She spent approximately half of her career representing injured plaintiffs before returning to her first love of civil litigation defense work. This experience on both sides of a case uniquely situates her in negotiations and at trial if settlement is not possible. Deedee is a third-generation Tar Heel and attorney, following in the footsteps of her grandfather, a North Carolina Resident Superior Court Judge (deceased), and her father, a career trial lawyer. She has dual degrees in Journalism and Political Science and earned her law degree cum laude from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, Florida, where she attended on a prestigious merit based scholarship. She is licensed to practice law in both North Carolina and Florida.
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