Facebook and Your Personal Injury ClaimOctober 21, 2010
The rise of social networking sites like Facebook have opened up online communications to millions of people worldwide. With the click of a mouse, you can post your Maui vacation photos or share news about your latest job interview with 200 of your closest friends. But do you know who else might be watching? What if it’s your employer? What you post on your Facebook page could have workplace implications beyond revealing a misused sick day or a complaint about your boss. If you’re involved in a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit against your employer, what you share on social networking sites could destroy your case.
Recent lawsuits have begun to set precedent in the burgeoning world of social networking. The 2009 case of Ledbetter v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. involved a subpoena to produce the content of the plaintiffs’ social networking sites. The sites allegedly contained information that contradicted the plaintiffs’ complaints of physical and psychological injuries resulting from an on-the-job accident. The judge ultimately held that the information on the social networking sites was relevant to the case and would likely lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
Similarly, in the 2010 case of Romano v. Steelcase, Inc., the plaintiff alleged an on-the-job accident caused her to suffer neck and back injuries that restricted her movement and essentially left her bedridden and housebound. Despite claims of pain and immobility, Romano’s public Facebook photos showed her outside of her home and smiling. The defense discovered these photos and argued additional photos would likely be found on Romano’s private Facebook pages. The court agreed and granted the defense’s request to access such private information. The court held that releasing Romano’s private Facebook information did not violate her Fourth Amendment right to privacy; by joining a social networking site, Romano consented to the possibility that her personal information would be shared with others, notwithstanding her privacy settings.
While Facebook privacy settings may filter posts on a daily basis, such settings will not protect you in a legal matter. According to the Romano case, even deleted posts and pictures are considered discoverable evidence for as long as they remain on Facebook’s server.
How can you avoid harming your personal injury case via a social networking site? Remember this key rule: Nothing posted online is ever completely private. Never post anything that might appear inconsistent with your injury claims, even if the privacy settings are high and even if you later delete the posts. A public profile or photos, in particular, can attract unwanted attention.
If you find yourself involved in a personal injury lawsuit, the professionals at Law Offices of Michael A. Brewer can help. Law Offices of Michael A. Brewer are experienced California personal injury attorneys ready to meet the distinct challenges associated with personal injury cases. The firm specializes in providing skilled and compassionate personal injury lawyers who will fight for their clients’ compensation.
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