Why Not to “Like” Social Media During a Lawsuit

Social media is great—using it helps us connect with friends and keep in touch with many people we’d otherwise never speak with. That said, as our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at Aronberg & Aronberg know, especially in our line of work, social media can be dangerous—and tremendously costly. Yes, as we recently discussed, social media can cause distracted driving which can lead to the types of accidents we deal with on a daily basis. But beyond that, social media posts can prove to be especially costly once you’re actually in litigation, and we will explain that reality below.

Before we begin, though, let’s briefly touch on the subject of “discovery.” Discovery, as the name might imply, is the stage in litigation during which opposing parties “discover” certain information relevant to their case, including information retained by the other party, as a way of preparing for trial and bracing for what the other side will throw at you. This process, as our personal injury lawyers know, takes place in both federal court and state court, both of which can play host to a personal injury case under the appropriate circumstances. So, what type of information might be discoverable? Consider this basic example: if an employee is suing a restaurant, claiming that they refuse to hire people of a certain race, that employee might obtain discovery related to the restaurant’s hiring policies and employee records.

But also discoverable by one party might be written posts and photographs, relevant to the case, published by either party. Here’s where our personal injury lawyers’ discussion of why it might be best to avoid social media during civil litigation comes into play. Let’s say John gets in a car accident with Betty and claims that Betty is at fault. As a result, John sues Betty and claims that because of Betty’s negligence, John suffered severe, debilitating physical injuries. Then, while the lawsuit is pending, Betty notices that John has been posting (on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter, etc.) photos of himself playing baseball with the caption “best shape of my life!” or something like that. During discovery, Betty and her lawyer might request copies of those posted photos and request that they be entered into evidence.

The harm to John, of course, is that his posts to social media completely contradict his claim. While he claimed to have suffered severe physical injuries, photographic evidence, published by him, and time stamped by the social media website, proves that he was actually able to move about and play sports and was, as he described it, in relatively great shape. The judge in the case might dismiss John’s claim on the basis of the photographs and comments or, if the judge allows the case to continue, the judge might significantly reduce the amount of money a jury might award him. If the parties are in the process of settlement negotiations, Betty will use the photos as leverage.

While the hypothetical above was created by our personal injury lawyers for the purpose of this blog, there are real cases that have been ruined because social media posts have been discovered, entered into evidence, and used against the person who published them.

For example, in a case called Zimmerman v. Weis Markets, Inc., the plaintiff alleged that the suffered severe, permanent injuries from operating a forklift. He then went on to post on Facebook that his interests include riding and doing “bike stunts.” The court came to the conclusion that his posts drew into question his damage claims and that his privacy interests weren’t more substantial than the discovery requests made by opposing counsel.

If you have any questions about social media and your personal injury case, or if you or someone you know has been injured due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another, please contact our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at Aronberg & Aronberg by calling 561-266-9191 or by e-mailing us at daronberg@build.simple.biz. Please get in touch to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to assisting you!

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