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Michael Napolitano Authors, "Plaintiff Required to Turn Over Social Media Account in Court"

Sep 4, 2012

Your personal injury case can be threatened based on your postings on social media sites. Insurance companies and defense lawyers search social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and others for photos and posts about what you are doing while claiming to be injured. The courts are now ordering injured plaintiffs to produce their Facebook or other social media site pages for the defense lawyers to inspect.

In April 2012, the Supreme Court in Richmond County (Staten Island) required a firefighter who alleged a slip and fall while on duty to turn over the contents of his Facebook account to the defense. The court stated that “[w]hen a person creates a Facebook account, he or she may be found to have consented to the possibility that personal information might be shared with others, notwithstanding his or her privacy settings, as there is no guarantee that the pictures and information posted thereon, whether personal or not, will not be further broadcast and made available to other members of the public.”

In the past few years, courts have become increasingly willing to grant defense lawyers in personal injury cases access to a plaintiff’s Facebook page or access to their other social media sites. Defense attorneys then take advantage of any instance in which these sites expose how particular injuries occurred or how the injuries have ultimately affected a Plaintiff’s life.

Every picture, comment and joke that you post anywhere on the Internet can now be used and possibly taken out of context in court. So if you are involved in a lawsuit, post infrequently and with extreme caution. A picture of you smiling on vacation might seem to prove that you are able to travel and not in too much pain. A joke about running the marathon or an old family photo only recently posted of you working out might seem to demonstrate your injuries are not serious.

While the Constitution gives you the right to post on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, there are still consequences for your public posts. What you give to the public belongs to the public. What you keep to yourself belongs only to you. This also holds true for social media in the context of personal injury litigation as well.