Best leave the tweeting to the president if you're involved in a cycling-related personal injury case.
Editor's Note: RoadBikeReview contributor Megan Hottman is a recognized legal expert on cycling laws and advocate in the cycling community. She provides bike law education clinics and classes to cyclists, local bike clubs and to law enforcement personnel. This post was originally published on www.hottmanlawoffice.com.
Social media has become part of everyday life for many people. First thing in the morning, you reach for your phone to check your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts. You post vacation photos, share pictures of your new home or use these platforms to update friends and family or to voice your opinion. Social media is how we communicate nowadays.
However, we must be extremely careful with what we communicate on social media. Employees have been fired for posting disparaging remarks about their employers. Posts that breach confidentiality agreements have led to loss of settlements. Then, there are the photos of someone bungee jumping all the while claiming a serious injury.
That might sound extreme or even ridiculous, but there are plenty of personal injury cases that have been lost for this very reason. Any photos or posts that you have created - whether related to your case or not - can or may be introduced by insurance companies or defense counsel and used as evidence against you.
Do not post anything about your case - injuries, recovery, your equipment, etc. - until it is concluded. Every comment, photo or tag can only harm your case. Do not post old photos or old content as a "place filler" either during this time, as they can be damaging, too.
The list of cases where plaintiffs are losing good cases because of something they posted online is endless. Judges are forcing production of private online content ¬from dating sites, family history sites like Ancestry.com and others like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Want examples. Check out Girl Costs Father $80,000 with Facebook post and Tinkering with Facebook account costs Plaintiff over $700,000.
After having a couple of our clients' cases substantially undermined by their social media posts, our law firm now has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to clients posting anything to social media until their case is closed. This is so that we can achieve the maximum success and obtain maximum monetary outcome on our clients' behalf. Any post-whether crash-related or not- threatens a client's case. The point is: it simply isn't worth it.
The reality is that most cards are already stacked against plaintiffs when we face insurance companies with unlimited resources. Insurance companies and defense counsel will go to great lengths to investigate you. They focus their investigations on social media posts and will often place people under surveillance. Anything you put on the Internet is not private and is absolutely going to be discovered by the insurance company we are working against.
While your account may be marked "private" now, the insurance company defense team will request the contents of your accounts, and they will get them. More and more courts across the country are ruling that there is no expectation of privacy for things shared on the Internet, and the judges are ruling that these socials must be produced¬, private or not.
When you broadcast things online, the insurance company is going to find that post. Our firm has seen that become exhibit #1 at trial.
Social media that can be discovered also includes posts made by others who tag you in a post or photograph. To prevent this from happening, set your privacy settings so that tagging is not allowed or permission must be granted before tagging can be done.
Do not accept future friend requests from people you do not personally know. Insurance companies, their attorneys and private investigators will try to gain access to your social media in order to obtain information that can be used to defeat or damage your case.
Be advised, deleting social media posts is not an option while your case is being handled. You cannot take anything down that you have created on the Internet. It has been ruled by numerous courts across the country that when you create a social media post and then delete it, it is considered spoliation of evidence. It will likely result in hardship to your case and possibly financial penalties.
There is no post that will add value to your case, only posts that will detract. Online content posts offer zero upside for the client, or case or recovery. It is almost always 100% downside.
So, when your lawyer advises you to take a break from social media during the pendency of your case, please listen. Social media posts will be used against you to negatively impact your case and can result in the loss of thousands of dollars. They can even cost you the entire case.
Don't want to take our word for it? Here are just a few examples of what other lawyers have to say: Example 1, Example 2, Example 3, Example 4, Example 5.
For more from the Cyclist Lawyer, please visit www.hottmanlawoffice.com.