Client Social Media Postings & How They Can Be Used In Lawsuits
Did you know your clients’ social media postings can now be used against them in a lawsuit in most jurisdictions? A court order can even be obtained to demand that your clients provide them with their account password information. The insurance companies may ask the court to order the release of all information contained within their home computers and laptop hard drives.
That short Facebook status update, that light-hearted comment on Twitter, or that humorous photo posted on Instagram can discredit your client’s injury claim and ultimately derail the case.
Most of your clients likely will use some form of social media. In fact, 73 percent of online adults use social networking sites. Facebook has more than 1 billion users. Twitter users post more than 400 million “tweets” per day.
Let’s say your client has an injury, but then posts on Facebook that he or she was dancing at a nightclub. The insurance companies can potentially access this information and use it against your client – even if the client had the highest privacy settings in place.
How Social Networking Can Ruin a Case
While social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other websites have created a virtual minefield for plaintiffs’ attorneys. A seemingly innocuous post from a client about a fun activity – or a comment understating the extent of an injury – could seriously compromise a case.
Insurance companies will be looking for fraud, exaggeration, conflicting statements and any other evidence that could be used against your client. To avoid headaches down the road, be sure to educate your clients on their communications as a potential risk to their case.
Many people often fail to restrict access to their social-media profile pages. They might not realize that information about their background, location, reputation, credibility and friends is available to the general public – including opposing counsel and the insurance companies. But even privacy settings won’t necessarily keep the information out the hands of insurance companies. Defense attorneys increasingly are seeking court orders to gain access to “private” content.
What to Do to Protect a Client Who Uses Social Networks
It’s important to ask your clients to refrain from using any social media while a case is ongoing. Better yet, ask them to delete all of their social media accounts. If your clients insist on using social media, they should do so responsibly. Ask your clients to do the following:
- Keep settings on “private,” but remind them that their posts may still be used against them.
- Don’t accept invitations from anyone you don’t know.
- Don’t post photos or video of yourself.
- Disable the “tagging” feature so friends cannot publish your activities on their accounts.
- Don’t post any updates about the case or send any emails about the case to anyone except your attorney.
- Tell friends and family not to post anything about the case.
- Assume that anything you post will be read by an insurance adjuster.
- Delete any posts about your accident.
Your clients should understand that insurance companies and opposing counsel will likely conduct a full internet search on them . They not only will search on Google, but they will search directly on Facebook, Twitter and similar social media sites. They may use subpoena power to access private information.
It is also recommended that firms direct their staff members to not “friend” clients on Facebook or other similar social media websites as a policy.
The impact of social media cannot be ignored. It is influencing not just how we communicate, but how lawyers litigate. When you meet with a client, you cannot overstate the serious risks of using social networking sites.