Electronic communication and social networking tools like e-mails, texts, Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagrams are an integral part of modern life. We have talked about Facebook before, but in all instances if you have a legal claim be sure that these modern communication tools are not used against you.
When you bring a personal injury lawsuit, and to a degree when you just assert a claim, the information you share is not private. It can become very public. You need to be aware of this and be careful with what you say and post.
Modern Electronic Communications Are Used As Evidence in Litigation
Messages posts and tweets can be used in your case for lots of reasons: background checks, investigations, and court evidence. For example, the lawyer for the other side can try to hurt your case by showing that your testimony contradicts something you said on Facebook. He might try to show your injuries did not happen, or you are doing things you claim not to be able to do, or simply use something that can be embarrassing in a courtroom to make you look bad.
The other side is may well be entitled to access any information posted online. It does not matter that you set your profile to “private.” So if you use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, LinkedIn, dating websites, a blog, listservs, or simply comment on other websites, everything you have posted might be available to the other side. Similarly, emails, voicemails, and text messages, could all be made available. And don’t think that if you just delete it the information is not available. The Court can force things to be retreived and provided to the other atttorneys
SO exercise discretion with what you communicate through emails, text messages, social networking sites, and other electronic means. You should know what sites you use and what is on those sites, and it is important that you communicate that knowledge to us when your lawyer asks for it.
The Number One Rule When It Comes to Electronic Communications and Lawsuits
Assume anything you type anywhere, on any electronic platform, will one day be posted in a courtroom in front of a jury for it to read.
Basic Tips About Electronic Communications Evidence:
Keep Your Attorney Client Communications Confidential. Do not post or communicate anything that your lawyer tells you or you tell your lawyer. Keep documents you exchanged with your lawyer private. The one thing the other side does not have the right to look at are communications between you and your lawyer about the case. Telling others what we have discussed can destroy the confidentiality of the attorney-client relationship.
Think Before You Post. Do not post or otherwise communicate anything on the internet that could be harmful to your case or that you would be embarrassed or surprised for a room full of strangers in court to see, even if you think you are posting anonymously. Use discretion when posting photographs or videos of yourself and allowing others to “tag” you. Ask yourself, would I want a room full of strangers to see this? If they do see it, can I explain it? Do I want to have to explain it? Certainly do not post information or photographs that shows illegal activity
Maintain Your Privacy. Do not become friends with anyone on Facebook or other sites who you do not know. Set your profiles to “private.” This at least protects you from some unknown snooping.
Limit your Case Communication. Do not send emails, messages, or texts about your case to anyone other than your lawyer’s office.
Don’t Destroy Evidence. Once you know you might be headed towards a lawsuit, do not delete your accounts or any information on them. It is improper and destroying something that was not important might be viewed as destroying evidence (spoliation). That can cause you to lose your case. Courts generally allow the other side to explore all sorts of things about you and may well find that a lot of your social networking information is potentially relevant to your claims and injuries.
Stay away from sexual content. Do not post any sexual content online or send sexual messages to anyone, whatsoever. It can be requested by the other side, and may have to be turned over.
Changing your online behavior by self- limiting and monitor your internet is one of the costs of pursuing a litigation claim. Litigation can be an invasive process.
Your lawyer will be much happier, and you will help you case if you following this advice.