November 12, 2018
By Michael A. Luongo
“Social media has changed how we communicate, share, stay informed, and keep in touch.” It is taking over our lives. We diligently check our profiles to see if our most recent post got enough likes. In today’s world, we tend to find ourselves connected at the hip to our phones. Constantly updating our own social media profile and checking on others. We share everything from meals, to carpool karaoke, to first days of school. Revealing our personal lives on the internet, however, has an impact on our civil cases, especially personal injury claims.
“Messages on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram are increasingly becoming the subjects of discovery, disputes, and litigation.” Simply stated, your claim today can be affected by the picture you post tomorrow. Consider it like talking to a detective – anything posted on social media can and will be used against you in a court of law.
For example, let’s look at the personal injury and wrongful death case of Allied Concrete Co. v, Lester, 736 SE 2d 699 (Va. 2013). The concrete truck driven by an Allied employee, crossed the center line, tipped and landed on the Lester’s vehicle. Mr. Lester was injured and Mrs. Lester was killed in the crash. At trial, Mr. Lester was successful and was awarded $6.227 million for the wrongful death claim and $2.350 million for the personal injury claim.
Allied appealed and argued that Mr. Lester and his attorney conspired to “intentionally and improperly destroy evidence in the form of Facebook posts.” Allied alleged that Mr. Lester had “cleaned up” his profile page by deleting photos of him at a party and briefly deactivating the page. Even though the deleted items were later produced, the court sanctioned Mr. Lester for $180,000 and his attorney for $542,000. “Lester provides at example of what to avoid when social media discovery issues arise.”
Although it may be tempting to delete or deactivate your accounts, doing so is dishonest conduct that could undermine your claims and credibility and ultimately damage your case. Our firm always instructs our clients to be mindful of what they post especially after litigation is initiated. We never advise clients to “clean up” their profiles, but instead prefer our clients to avoid posting on social media altogether.
HRMM&L has the experience, expertise and resources to help you through the discovery process and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.