If you belong to a public social networking account such as Facebook, Tumblr, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, Google Buzz, etc., we STRONGLY recommend that you close it until your case is completely over.
If you choose not to close your accounts, we warn you to use great caution. Whatever you write or post, or have written or posted, will most likely be seen by the defense attorney or insurance company. It is now standard practice for them to run computer searches and investigations to obtain information about your personal life. They will try to obtain it without your knowledge or permission. Increasingly, they demand that you provide them with your account passwords. They also frequently ask the court to order the release of your password information.
If you have such a site, you should immediately verify that all your settings are on Private (the highest setting possible) and nothing is public. Even with the highest privacy settings, you should only write or post items that cannot be used to hurt you. Social Networking sites are open to the public, and the law fluctuates and is unclear if, or to what extent, privacy laws apply.
Our best advice is that you take down your sites until your case is over. We understand you may decide to keep your site(s) active. If so, we make the following specific recommendations:
- Allow anyone to become a “friend” on a website like Facebook unless you are absolutely sure you know that person.
- Post any photographs or video of yourself (or enable others to “tag” you)
- Write or disclose anything about your personal life that you would be embarrassed to have a defense attorney use against you in front of a judge and jury
- Send e-mails regarding your case to anyone except your attorneys.
- Send texts regarding your case to anyone except your attorneys.
- Enter insurance websites.
- Participate in blogs, chat-rooms, or message boards.
We have seen an increase in electronic surveillance of these types of accounts and sites by insurance companies, investigators, and defense attorneys. They hope to discover information to embarrass, humiliate or hurt you. They will look for pictures or comments by you or your friends that they can take out of context to imply that your injury is exaggerated or false. We have seen innocent, harmless joking between private “Friends,” used and distorted by insurance companies to try to convince a judge and jury that a plaintiff is dishonest. We have seen insurance companies subpoena cell phone records and other social networking sites.
We know that asking you to limit your social networking activity is a great inconvenience, but your case is very important. We cannot fully protect you unless you follow our warnings and instructions.
Finally, our law firm and staff members do use social media. However, our policy is not to “friend” our clients – at least not until the legal case has concluded. This is because we are in an Attorney-Client relationship with you, and we need to establish clear boundaries to protect our professional relationship while your case is active.
Your personal injury is just that – personal. And although your personal injury case has a number, you will be treated like a person throughout the process. By choosing the Law Offices of Steven D. Weier to handle your personal injury case, you are choosing the attention that is vital to your personal recovery, and the professional know-how that is crucial to your best possible settlement. Contact us today for your no-obligation consultation.