Personal injury litigation is a creature of our society and reflects all that is going on. For example, when television became hugely popular, attorneys introduced the concept of lawyer television advertising.
Nothing is hotter today than social media. And social media is changing many aspects of the way personal injury cases proceed. You may have noticed that many firms (including ours) use social media to pass on news about important legal victories, changes in the law, etc. We have found that Facebook posts and other social media updates are wonderful ways to let our clients and the general public knows about what we are up to.
But for an injury victim, social media is a potential problem, too.
Remember that most cases proceed quickly into a “discovery” phase. Discovery is designed to allow insurance companies and defense lawyers to understand the case and to identify facts which may undermine the claim. In a defense lawyer’s perfect world, he would be able to conduct surveillance 24 hours per day, but this is simply too expensive and not practical. Unfortunately, many claimants make the defense lawyer’s job easy by posting their entire lives on-line.
In recent cases, we have seen elaborate forms of discovery designed to ferret out our client’s “virtual life.” This includes photographs, comments, blogs, statements by family members and many other postings which together paint a picture of the client’s life.
In many cases, the picture is not pretty.
Clients are frequently portrayed (correctly or incorrectly) in the best possible light when their pictures and videos are posted on-line. Often the images can be deceiving when they show a person who seems to be healthy and active. Also, blogs and comments can be taken out of context and be sure, all such postings “can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
For this reason, we have cautioned our clients, their friends and associates to only post that which they would be comfortable seeing in court. Of course one cannot twist the truth, but to be safe, one also must be smart.
Make no mistake, postings on social media are fair game for discovery purposes, and you may even run into them years later if your case goes to court. Often unflattering posts can be difficult or impossible to undue. (Recently a Virginia lawyer was disciplined for suggesting that his client do just this).
The conclusion is obvious. Be careful what you post or consider whether you can suspend your “virtual life” while your case progresses. It may be one small sacrifice that you could make which pays significant dividends for your case down the road.