In recent years, Facebook and other social media sites are changing the ways that laws are interpreted and executed in terms of evidence and discovery. Information from Facebook and other social media sites is becoming increasingly popular to use in the “discovery” aspect of personal injury litigation. In recent years, several cases involving personal injury claims and social media have set the precedent for the admittance of social media into the courtroom for years to come.
One of these cases involved an employee of Weis Supermarkets suing the company because he claimed to have suffered an injury to his knee while working. Although he did require surgery to correct his knee, he claimed that he could not participate in physical activity and never wore shorts because he was embarrassed by his surgical scar. Discovery material provided from Facebook resulted in pictures of the employee engaging in intense physical activity, as well as wearing shorts that plainly showed his surgical scar. Because the bulk of his case rested upon his inability to take part in the physical activities he had previously enjoyed, his case did not have much merit once the Facebook pictures were admitted as evidence.
In the wake of social media being used as evidence in court cases, some experts anticipate a few issues will start to creep up in national news. One of the most pressing is publicity rights as they relate to social media. When a person posts information and pictures, it may or may not be considered allowable for companies to use the information commercially without written consent. This issue has not formally been decided, but will play a huge role in how internet advertisers create ads in the future. Additionally, the concept of who actually owns a Twitter account is another hot-button issue. If a company uses a Twitter account for marketing and branding, does the employer or the employee own the account? This becomes an issue if the employee chooses to leave the company and may request to take his/her account and followers somewhere else.
If you are pursuing a personal injury claim, you should be careful about what you choose to post on social media sites. Even if you are significantly injured, defense attorneys might try to twist what you write or update to compile a case against you. One picture, taken out of context, may cost you a significant amount of money in a personal injury case. Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury attorney serving western and central Pennsylvania. Please call his office for your free initial consultation at 814-946-4100.