In today’s digital world, most of us have a seemingly insatiable desire to stay connected. For many, social media is an integral part of their daily life. They log into their favorite social media platforms first thing in the morning and several times throughout the day. They post status updates, read and comment on other peoples’ posts, and try to stay up to date on all of the latest things that are happening.
Social media activity is generally harmless – as long as you do not allow it to consume too much of your life. When someone is involved in a legal case, however, social media becomes more than just a fun way for someone to stay connected with their family and friends. Electronic communication leaves a permanent digital fingerprint, and the things you post and comment on when you are on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms can be used against you by the other side.
Social Media Activity During a Personal Injury Claim
If you were injured because of the negligent actions of another party, you may be pursuing damages against the responsible party and/or their insurer. For example, you got hurt in a car crash after the other driver ran a stop sign. The other driver was clearly at fault, so what would be the harm in continuing to be active on social media while the claim is ongoing?
Maybe in this case there is no dispute over who caused the accident, but there could still be a lot of questions about the extent of your injuries. The insurance company for the other side is going to want to mitigate their losses, so they will look for any reason to claim that your injuries are not as bad as you say they are.
How does this relate to social media? Well, let’s say you are claiming noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress, but you post a photo of you and your family smiling and relaxing while on vacation. Or maybe you decide to make some optimistic remarks to reassure those who are concerned about your health that you are feeling a lot better and you are on the road to recovery. You can see how these types of posts could be distorted by the other side to argue that your noneconomic damages should be reduced.
Social Media Activity during a Family Law Case
In a family law case such as a divorce or child custody proceeding, any social media posts relating to the case are ill-advised. For example, posts that bash your spouse exceedingly can make you seem petty and are likely to be looked at unfavorably by a court. Posts that show you being involved with another party could also be damaging, especially if your children show up in the pictures as well.
It is always best to stay silent as much as possible during a family legal proceeding, and this applies not only to social media activity, but to text messages and other private messages as well. All of this information is discoverable and admissible in court, so do not engage in any digital activity that you don’t want the whole world to see.
Electronic Activity during a Criminal Case
If you are facing any type of criminal charge, you can absolutely count on law enforcement to comb through every piece of your digital activity that they can get their hands on. This could include not only your social media activity, but everything else that is contained on your cell phone, tablet, or computer.
Even if these devices are password-protected, that may not be enough. Criminal suspects can be served with a demand to turn over their passwords, the failure of which could lead to additional penalties. And even if you do not turn over your passwords, law enforcement agencies have some of the most up-to-date technologies to be able to access the information within these devices through other means.
The bottom line is that if you are involved in a criminal case, you have absolutely no expectation of privacy with regards to any of your electronic activity. All of it can be discovered one way or another, even files that you thought were permanently deleted, and it can all be used against you by the prosecution.
Always Follow the Advice of Your Attorney
The very best practice for anyone involved in a legal case is to suspend your all electronic activity immediately and wait until after the case is resolved before you resume it. But that said, we know that many people cannot quit everything and totally unplug from the digital world.
At the very least, keep your activity to a minimum, and closely follow the advice of your legal counsel on this and other important matters. Your attorney knows the specifics of your case and what activities could jeopardize it. By doing what they tell you to do, you will be in the best possible position to secure a favorable outcome.