It’s a fact of life that social media is here to stay. Many individuals see fit to post just about every detail of their life on some type of social media such as Facebook or Twitter. The result of such activity can actually end up being devastating in a personal injury lawsuit.
In a personal injury case, the parties engage in what is known as “discovery”. During discovery, the parties are required to turn over to the other side any evidence that the other side requests so long as the request could “lead to” the discovery of evidence that might be admissible at trial. This is a very wide and open standard, and it may not be a shock to learn that many defense lawyers these days want to look at a plaintiff’s Facebook or other social media pages in order to see whether the plaintiff has posted any comments, photographs, or even videos concerning the accident.
The case law is still evolving in this area, but it is becoming clear that many courts across the country are now requiring plaintiffs to provide copies of their social media pages to the defense lawyers, if not, completely turn over the username and password to their social media accounts. In addition, the law requires that evidence posted on social media may be preserved when an individual reasonably suspects that there may be litigation down the road. Obviously, when a plaintiff is involved in a serious car accident, the plaintiff should be aware that there is the potential for litigation down the road. Therefore, once a plaintiff is involved in the accident, there are laws that essentially prohibit the individual from deleting posts on Facebook that they may have made in the past. Deleting such evidence would be considered the destruction of evidence. Destruction of evidence would be grounds for dismissal of the lawsuit, so the plaintiff would recover absolutely nothing.
Even if a lawsuit is not dismissed, fines and other penalties can be imposed. For example, there is one documented case where a court fined a plaintiff $100,000 and his attorney $542,000 after the attorney advised the client to delete certain Facebook posts and the client went ahead and did so. Lawyers are becoming more and more aware of these types of worrisome outcomes, so now many lawyers are taking the opposite stance and are specifically instructing clients from the moment that the client walks into the office to preserve any evidence that may currently be on Facebook or any other social media. This applies even if the evidence would be devastating to the case. Lawyers would rather the case be dismissed than face huge fines or ethical inquiries.
So what is the solution? The best answer is to be conservative with your Facebook and Twitter posts at all times. This way, your social media page, even if turned over in its entirety in a lawsuit, will not be devastating to your case. Do not post embarrassing photos on your Facebook page that you would not want a jury or defense lawyer to see if you ever become involved in litigation. Keep in mind, many people, if not all people, do not expect to ever have to go to court for compensation for catastrophic injuries. We don’t like to think about it, but should that day ever come, you would not want to have your claim fall apart based on some inappropriate photos or posts that have been made on Facebook. Even more importantly, immediately following an accident and in the months and years afterward, simply don’t post anything about the accident on Facebook to begin with. This prevents the problem of the destruction of evidence (the evidence would never have existed in the first place), and it will make for much smoother sailing and a less worrisome experience as the matter progresses.
Here at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC, we advise our clients in the initial client intake session to preserve any evidence that may currently be on the individual’s Facebook page, but not to engage in any new posts related to the accident. Simply keep the matter private. This is good advice for plaintiffs in Ohio and all across the country. If you have been involved in an accident and are concerned about evidence that may be on Facebook or other social media, feel free to contact the lawyers at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC today. We will give you straightforward and ethical advice as to how to handle the matter and we would be happy to meet with you at a time that is convenient for you. Feel free to give us a call today.
We handle Ohio personal injury cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, ATV accidents, Ohio workers’ compensation, construction accidents, child injuries, wrongful death, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, food poisoning, dog bite attacks, and all injury cases.