As social media becomes the norm, Facebook is in the news more and more. Recently, in the Deseret News, Andrew Adams reported on a Connecticut woman who lost her job because of slanderous statements she made about her boss online. This article highlights the potential legal ramifications clients face with social media.
Most of the time, people who are injured aren’t thinking about how Facebook can hurt (or help) their case. It’s only natural to want to talk to friends about what happened to you and how you feel. If you are involved in litigation, review your social media memberships (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) and remember these tips:
1. Use Privacy Settings – If you use social media, you should immediately verify that all of your settings are on private (the highest privacy setting). To ensure that people outside of your circle of friends are not looking at your Facebook page, make sure to change all settings to “private”. This will keep people you don’t know (including opposing attorneys, insurance adjusters, and potential jurors) from looking at your information. Remember that Facebook changes it’s privacy setting periodically and it reverts your settings back to “public” so make sure you check occasionally.
2. Have an appropriate profile picture – In some instances, even if you are set to private, people can see your main profile picture. Make sure this picture does not show you in a negative light.
3. Tagged Photos – While it may be out of your control to manage who can tag photos of you, select Only Me under who can view your tagged photos. Pictures that seem perfectly harmless, like you playing sports or dancing, may be used against you to show you are not injured. Even pictures taken at gatherings where there is alcohol on the table or in the background can be used to make the jury less sympathetic to you.
4. Be careful who you are friends with – Choose your Facebook friends as carefully as you choose your personal friends. Only accept friend requests from people you actually know. Insurance adjusters, defense attorneys, and jurors can often be disguised as “friends”.
5. Be careful about what groups you join – Do not join groups or causes that may be viewed as unsympathetic. Be sure that the “group name” does not contain offensive material or profanity.
6. Remove yourself from search results – On any social media outlet, go to the privacy settings and remove yourself from any search results.
7. Be careful about commenting on Friends status’ and walls – You don’t know with whom your “friends” are friends and you don’t know who has access to your friends’ pages.
8. Do not compromise your case – Be cautious about what you post. It is standard practice for insurance companies to obtain your Facebook information, without you ever knowing they have done so. Assume everything you post, or that is posted about you, will be open to the public. Under no circumstances should you ever post photos, comments, or status updates about your case. Keep in mind that Facebook's new settings publish your interests, even if they are private. Do not list any of this information anywhere online.
9. Use social media to your advantage. If you are injured, truthfully mention on your sites how badly your life has been messed up because of your injuries. If you have to decline invitations on Facebook because of injuries, mention the reason (i.e. I am in a lot of pain, and I’m not well enough to travel).
10. Ask your friends to play it safe, too. Do not let friends and family take pictures of you individually or in a group, unless the picture is completely inoffensive and unobjectionable. Once a harmful picture of you is taken, you have little to no control over whether it is made public.
If you have are using any social media web sites, let your attorney know right away. Your attorney can answer any questions you might have about how social media can affect your claim.
If you have a potential personal injury, medical malpractice, or civil rights claim, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.