In recent years, legal guidelines have not been updated to reflect the changes made in technology, such as social media sites. Social media sites include popular websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Google+. Social media sites, in addition to being a way to keep in contact with friends and family, are also a way for lawyers to gather information about personal injury claims.
For those people who are pursuing a personal injury claim, it is becoming increasingly common for the defense to request the plaintiff's social media usernames and passwords. Even if the plaintiff refuses, a court order might force them to turn over their log-in information. With this knowledge, the defense can access your pictures, posts, friend activity, etc. to compile information about you that might be used in court. This may range from social habits, physical activity, and any travel the plaintiff might have done. Although this might not seem relevant, the information gathered may be used to argue that a person is more physically able than they let on (such as in the case of a personal injury claim) or that they might not be reliable (such as evidence of heavy drinking habits or illegal drug use). For this reason, along with many others, it is important to monitor your Facebook profile and really think before you post anything. Although you might have your privacy settings activated, they are not as effective as you might think and does not give you license to post anything you wish. Additionally, if you are not really injured or not as extensively injured as you let on, you should not be pursuing a personal injury claim in that line. A good rule of thumb is to remember that everything you post online could potentially be public information, so monitor your internet usage accordingly.
Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer serving western and central Pennsylvania. He is a SuperLawyer and a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. For more information on his practice, please click here.