Social media has grown exponentially in the last decade and is a routine part of many people’s lives. It allows people to share their experiences, connect with others, and promote themselves and their businesses. However, social media affects your lawsuit because it is a permanent, digital record of everything anyone posts. Therefore, it is so important to use social media responsibly, especially when involved in a lawsuit.
Social media is never truly private. Even if you set your settings to private, where only friends can view, the posts can still be discoverable. Private messages are also not immune from discovery. Sometimes, even deleted posts can get recovered and produced to the court.
Everything you say can and will be used against you
The court may require a party in a lawsuit to disclose all their social media history. This allows the opposing side to comb through social media and find evidence or even misconstrue those posts against your claim. While it is normal for people to want to put their best face forward on social media, they rarely realize the consequences of their posts. Social media posts can possibly call the facts of the case into doubt. They can make the poster look bad, contradict testimony, or undermine damages.
For instance, a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit claims injuries for broken bones, chronic pain, and mental anguish. If they post photos of them being physically active or socializing after the incident, like going skiing with friends or frequently checking in at the gym or yoga classes, then those posts can disprove their claim that they’re hurt and cannot take part in activities and reduce the amount of money they can recover. A jury could think the plaintiff is exaggerating their injuries and award them less money. Likewise, if a plaintiff posts a version of events related to the incident and later testifies differently, the post can undermine their credibility.
How to protect yourself and your case
While this area of law continues to evolve, it is best to treat every post, message, photo, or video as if it will be admissible in court. If you involve yourself in a litigation, consider suspending your social media accounts until the matter fully resolves. Below are additional simple practices to ensure that your reputation and credibility do not become comprimised:
- The best way to avoid having social media undermine your case is to avoid posting completely
- Set all profiles to “private” to limit public access to your accounts
- Do not accept friend or follow requests from anyone you do not personally know
- Don’t post anything (no details, no photos, no videos) about your accident, injuries, or case
- Ignore any comments about your case
- Post nothing that you discuss with your lawyers
- Tell friends and family not to post about you