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social media Archives

Instagram and your Lawsuit

As always, it is important to be careful what you post on your social media account.  This is even more important when you are involved in a lawsuit.  One New York based lawsuit is currently making news in the legal world for a social media matter regarding to a car accident.  According to the background of the claim, a woman alleged that she suffered injuries from a car accident that caused her a significant loss of enjoyment of life.  However, her Instagram was reviewed during the legal proceedings, and included post-accident pictures of the woman participating in strenuous outdoor activities and enjoying a vacation. It may be likely that these pictures may have a negative impact towards the woman's claim.  

Social Media In The Office

Ever wonder how different employers regulate the use of social media? The Huffington Post released an interesting article that, although a few years old, covered some interesting trends that arose in social media use in the office.  Some of the more interesting points include the following:

Facebook Undermines PA Woman's Personal Injury Lawsuit

Sometimes, what you post on social media can really influence the validity of your legal claim.  Recently, a Pennsylvania woman discovered this fact when she went to pursue a lawsuit against doctors whom she felt misdiagnosed her.  According to the report, published by McCall.com, the Pennsylvania Superior Court recently ruled that the woman failed to sue doctors within the two-year statute of limitations for such cases.  The woman's original argument was that physicians misdiagnosed her Lyme disease as multiple sclerosis. 

Facebook May Impact Your Legal Claim

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.  

NPR Discusses Social Media and Class Action Lawsuits

Once again, the National Public Radio is weighing in on a relevant topic to today's blog topic.  Social media and its use for legal claims has been an area of hot debate in recent years.  Can private social media posts be used as courtroom evidence?  How do you control jurors and judges who may tweet or Facebook post about a current case? Interestingly, some lawyers are also attempting to use social media to reach large masses of people for class-action lawsuits.  Read about this new phenomenon by clicking the link to the original NPR article, which can be found here.

Elderly Becoming Victims of Social Media Misuse

Believe it or not, social media harassment is becoming a significant problem for elderly residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. According to a local report from ProPublica (in partnership with NPR) there has been a significant amount of Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram photos and videos posted by nursing home employees in recent years.  These photos and videos highlight residents in compromising positions, such as being naked and/or abused, covered in excrement, or deceased.  As a result, federal health officials have stated that they plan to crack down on these employees.  One such measure they recommend is having a clear policy for all workers that prohibit staff from taking potentially demeaning pictures of their residents.  Additionally, they are urging state officials to quickly investigate claims, report offenders, and recommend disciplinary action.   

Are You STILL Participating in Distracted Driving? This Post May Change Your Mind

If you're still driving while using your phone, you may want to think again!  Pennsylvania law enforcement are noticing a significant increase in car accidents caused by incidences of distracted driving, such as texting and driving.  Policemen are aware of this trend and are on the lookout to catch people who are driving unsafely.  One such law enforcement officer that was interviewed in Erie, PA states that distracted driving is especially dangerous because it takes away from three separate aspects of driving--visual control, manual control, and mental focus.  To add to the problem, PA law states that you can dial a phone number and use it for voice communication while driving in our state, which is really unsafe as well! Nationally, over 1.6 million accidents were caused by distracted driving last year.  That number is simply outrageous and should not be a danger for traveling Americans on the road!

Social Media is Fair Game in Legal Cases

In recent years, legal guidelines have not been updated to reflect the changes made in technology, such as social media sites.  Social media sites include popular websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Google+.  Social media sites, in addition to being a way to keep in contact with friends and family, are also a way for lawyers to gather information about personal injury claims.
For those people who are pursuing a personal injury claim, it is becoming increasingly common for the defense to request the plaintiff's social media usernames and passwords.  Even if the plaintiff refuses, a court order might force them to turn over their log-in information.  With this knowledge, the defense can access your pictures, posts, friend activity, etc. to compile information about you that might be used in court.  This may range from social habits, physical activity, and any travel the plaintiff might have done.  Although this might not seem relevant, the information gathered may be used to argue that a person is more physically able than they let on (such as in the case of a personal injury claim) or that they might not be reliable (such as evidence of heavy drinking habits or illegal drug use).  For this reason, along with many others, it is important to monitor your Facebook profile and really think before you post anything.   Although you might have your privacy settings activated, they are not as effective as you might think and does not give you license to post anything you wish.  Additionally, if you are not really injured or not as extensively injured as you let on, you should not be pursuing a personal injury claim in that line.  A good rule of thumb is to remember that everything you post online could potentially be public information, so monitor your internet usage accordingly.
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.
This is just one of may cases in which social media had a negative impact on a client's personal injury claim.  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 lawyer serving western and central Pennsylvania. For more information on his firm or to schedule a free initial consultation, please call his firm at 814-946-4100.
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