Social media is an integral part of our everyday lives, and when something major happens – good or bad – our first impulse is typically to post about it. Unfortunately, if you’re posting about a recent accident, beware; those Facebook posts could cause serious damage to your case. And if you’re a lawyer, your clients may have sabotaged their cases before they even arrive in your office.
Establishing some basic rules and building awareness around the damage social media can cause to personal injury cases is central to your clients’ success. These basic rules can help protect your clients and your case – if you can get to them quickly enough.
Make Social Media Marketing Work For You
The simplest way to communicate your social media guidelines to potential clients is by using the very platform you’re warning them about: social media. Individuals seeking a lawyer often use social media to look up firms, check your reviews, and see examples of your work. Boost your practice’s appeal – and the odds your clients won’t overshare about their accident – by making a post about social media use a piece of promoted content. This ensures that anyone looking for lawyers in your area will see this information.
Paraphrase Privacy Exceptions
When developing a personal injury lawsuit, most people assume that the only information that matters is the facts of the scene. In a recent Nevada case, Hinostroza v. Denny’s Inc., however, the court ruled that discovery should include all social media posts from a year prior to an accident through the time of the case. This includes those set to private, and the goal is to ensure that plaintiffs aren’t overstating or falsifying their injuries. But it also means that potentially compromising posts will be caught in the net.
What does this look like in practice? As David Blackwell Law explains, if, for example, you’ve been in a car accident, the first part of your case involves establishing to what degree each driver is at fault. If a plaintiff’s social media shows a propensity for distracted driving or other bad road habits, though, this could do serious damage to the case.
A Narrow Construction
As a lawyer, your job is to protect your clients and their cases, and so, when working with a new client, one step you can take to limit the damage social media can do to their case is argue for a narrow construction of social media discovery. This is one of the key arguments stemming from Forman v. Henkin, a New York-based case that established similar discovery rules to Hinostroza v. Denny’s, Inc., in Nevada.
Unlike Hinostroza v. Denny’s, Inc., though, one of the key rulings in the Forman v. Henkin appeal is that any discovery request must be narrowly tailored to the individual case. When discussing social media use with clients, then, depending on your jurisdiction, you may be able to attempt a narrow construction of the evidence to protect your client.
Social media is a valuable tool for fostering connections and it can even help lawyers make their case and reach potential clients. On the other hand, it can also create evidence against your suit that, on the stand, can contradict all other arguments. When using social media within the context of the courtroom, then, take caution – and start with education. Plaintiffs rarely know just how risky their social media use can be.