Depending on whether you’re suing or being sued, social media is either a friend or foe. For lawyers, if you are a Plaintiff’s attorney, social media is the enemy. However, if you are a civil defense attorney, it’s probably one of the best tools at your disposal. And the reason is simple, everyone is addicted to posting… and they post the minutia of their daily lives.
Lawyers used to have to go to the trouble of hiring a private investigator to follow you around and take pictures of you, for example, doing strenuous activities like hiking or swimming when you’re suing someone because you say you’re permanently injured. Now, you do the work for them! Selfies and status updates are a documentary of your life… or at least a version of it. And while most of us like to just post the highlights, doing so can paint a picture of a happy, healthy, you, when maybe the truth really is that you are injured and growing more depressed each day as the pain and financial strain weigh on you.
So, here are some tips on how to handle social media if you are ever in the unfortunate position of being in a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
- Don’t Delete
In general, the advice is going to be not to go on a deleting rampage, but use your discretion here. If it is just routine page maintenance, probably not a big deal; however, if you walk into a lawyer’s office and then you start deleting, you’re probably doing something wrong. The main thing you want to do is stop posting or alter your posting habits – see #2 below. If something is already there, deleting it isn’t going to get rid of it, but it will make you look like you have something to hide. Even if you do have something to hide, in today’s tech-savvy world, it won’t stay hidden, so you need to just confront it. All this said, you CAN make your page private, and that’s advisable.
- Don’t Talk About the Case
It’s sounds pretty simple, but if you are to the point of seeing a lawyer to pursue a claim, it is likely this is the forefront of your daily life. Resist the urge to update friends and family on any legal claims, pre-suit or a filed lawsuit. And, that urge will be tough to resist sometimes because social media gives us immediate feedback, and, often when dealing with injuries, it will give encouragement. Encouragement is good, but you have to resist talking about the case. If you talk about how you are feeling, just be aware that those words will 100% come back into play. If it is the truth, it’s the truth, but understand that 280 characters may not be enough to explain the context of having a good day while managing constant neck pain and headaches.
- Don’t Post Pictures
This goes double for pictures – a picture may be worth 1000 words, but as soon as you post it, you have no control over what those 1000 words are… so just don’t do it. Pictures are one of the things people love most on social media, but when you post a picture, it can so easily be taken out of context. One smiling picture of you at the beach can easily sink a personal injury suit. And the reason is context – once a jury sees it, they make conclusions, and it doesn’t matter what your explanation may be. Pictures can be helpful in documenting injuries and recovery, but just keep them off social media.
- Do – Continue to Live Your Life
You don’t have to disappear from social media, you just have to be very thoughtful about it. The legal rules and implications of posting have real-world consequences for any potential claim or suit. However, feel free to still participate on social media. You want to post or like pictures of babies, cat videos, and animals acting like people – go for it! Just keep away from posting about verdicts, conversations with your lawyer, or pretty much anything at all connected to your potential claim or lawsuit.
If you are injured, your attorney should address these issues in your initial consultation. If he or she doesn’t bring it up, you should. Ask questions and get a full understanding of the risks and understand the advice of your attorney – and follow that advice. Social media can be a wonderful thing, but when it comes to the social media world clashing with the legal world, it can really spell trouble for an injured person. Pictures and postings don’t come with further context… and once they are out, rarely does more context matter to a jury. So, don’t be your own private investigator – understand how to be thoughtful about your social media if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of being part of an injury claim or lawsuit.