Many people maintain at least one social media account, where they share photos, personal details, and other information with family members, friends, and work colleagues. As social media becomes an increasingly permanent fixture in our culture, it has raised interesting and novel questions about privacy. In the legal context, social media accounts can jeopardize a personal injury plaintiff’s case if the defense alleges that the plaintiff has posted photos or other data that casts doubt on the legitimacy of the plaintiff’s claim.
The Admissibility of Social Media Evidence
Although many people assume that their social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter, are private, courts across the country have granted defendants access to plaintiffs’ social media accounts in situations where the information they contain is compelling for the issues in a particular case. A 2011 Reuters article reports a “shifting balance between privacy and evidence-gathering” and claims that personal injury cases are especially fertile ground for defense discovery requests.
Evidence is generally admissible as long as it is relevant and reliable. In a personal injury case, for example, where a plaintiff alleges he suffered a debilitating injury that left him unable to work or sit in a chair for long periods of time, a Facebook photo of the plaintiff dancing at a wedding or standing in a fishing boat could hinder the plaintiff’s ability to recover the full value of his claim. Because pictures often fail to tell a complete story – maybe the plaintiff was heavily medicated and able to stand just long enough for someone to snap the photo – this type of evidence can be especially damaging to an injury victim’s case.
How to Handle Social Media after an Injury
If you have been injured, be cautious about what you share online. Before you share a photo or post a status update, consider how it might impact your case. More importantly, do not assume that the things you share are private. Judges in more than one jurisdiction have held that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy on a social media site like Facebook – even with a private post or message. Furthermore, courts have circumvented the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which Facebook and other Internet companies have used to protect themselves from divulging users’ information, by holding that the Act does not apply when a defendant serves a discovery request directly upon a plaintiff rather than an “Internet service provider.”
Denver, Colorado Personal Injury Law Firm
If you have been injured due to another person’s negligence, the attorneys at the Klibaner Law Firm can help. Call us today at (303) 863-1445 to speak to an attorney about your case.
This website has been prepared by Klibaner Law Firm for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.