Worldwide there are over 1.39 billion monthly active Facebook users, 288 million monthly active Twitter users, and more than 150 million monthly active Instagram users. That being said, there is no question that social media has changed the way we communicate and has become a key part of today’s lifestyle.
We find and share our new favorite clothing and recipes on blogs; we update our Facebook status daily to share with our friends where we are and what we are doing; we get our news in one sentence on Twitter; we upload photos of what we had for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Instagram; and we learn about someone’s educational background and work experience on LinkedIn. Social media is a powerful tool that allows users to create and share information instantly.
Social media not only impacts our daily lives, but legal matters as well. And if used wisely, it proves as a treasure trove of information for counsel on either side of the dispute. It is used to investigate plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, experts, attorneys, jurors and judges. Therefore it is important to consider how social media can impact your case. Anything you post on the Internet has the potential to be used as evidence against you. Social media is treated no differently by the courts than any other evidence. Thus, for admission in court, a party must: show that the electronically stored information obtained from social media is relevant, authentic, it’s probative value outweighs any unfair prejudice, and it passes muster with the hearsay rules and exceptions. ILCS S. Ct. Rule 401, 403, 803(3), and 901(a).
Social medical is crucial for purposes of gathering evidence because not only do social medical sites publish the words you say and the activities you do, but social media sites also record the exact date and time you posted that information. Such information about how a plaintiff is doing and what they are doing, together with the exact time they are doing it is incredibly valuable to defense attorneys and insurance companies.
For example, say you were in a car accident and are suing for lower back pain and neck pain. You did everything you should do when involved in an auto accident. Yet despite the fact you are claiming severe back and neck pain, you posted photos of yourself skiing in Colorado after the date of your accident. This type of evidence makes the insurance company question whether or not you’re being honest about your injuries, and it’s likely you will not get a good settlement amount and that your case will not go to trial.
The best thing you can do for your personal injury claim is to close or suspend your social media accounts. If suspending your accounts until your case settles seems intolerable, we recommend that you should not post details about your accident, injuries, and/or recovery on social media or comment on posts made by other people about your accident, injuries, and/or recovery. We also recommend that you increase your privacy settings so that only your friends can see what you have posted on your sites.
While we can’t promise that you will ever be completely protected from defense attorneys and insurance companies finding information about you, we do believe that you can potentially limit the discovery of negative evidence if you are aware of how social media can impact your case and you act cautiously before posting a new photo or updating your status.