Social Media Impact on Personal Injury Case
Social media is a veritable treasure trove of information in Pennsylvania personal injury and workers compensation cases. Sometimes that information benefits the Claimant or Plaintiff, but more often than not, it works against the Plaintiff. Case in point, a Florida man received an $80,000.00 confidential settlement payment for his age discrimination claim against his former employer. However, he forfeited that settlement after his daughter posted on her Facebook page “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” The Facebook post violated the confidentiality agreement in the settlement and, therefore, cost the Plaintiff $80,000.00. Very often insurance companies and defense lawyers will turn to social media to determine a Claimant or Plaintiffs activities. If a Claimant or Plaintiff claim in testimony that they can’t play softball anymore and a defendant finds photos of you scoring the winning run in your most recent softball game, you have a problem. And don’t think you can just simply delete unfavorable information from your social media site. The Pennsylvania Bar Association recently issued an ethics opinion on social media and concluded:
Thus, a lawyer may not instruct a client to alter, destroy, or conceal any relevant information, regardless whether that information is in paper or digital form. A lawyer may, however, instruct a client to delete information that may be damaging from the client’s page, provided the conduct does not constitute spoliation or is otherwise illegal, but must take appropriate action to preserve the information in the event it is discoverable or becomes relevant to the client’s matter.
The better practice is to be judicious in deciding what goes on your social media site and assume that the world is going to see it regardless of what your privacy settings are.