Your Social Media Posts Can Ruin Your Lawsuit

Your social media posts are not necessarily private once you’ve filed a lawsuit. Lawsuit opponents are allowed to use things you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any of countless internet websites and blogs against you. If you’re involved in any type of claim, that information could compromise your case. Quite honestly, once you’re considering a legal claim, and certainly once you’ve filed one, it’s to not post anything even remotely related to that claim anywhere on the internet.

Opposing counsel in all types of cases commonly request social media information during their pretrial investigation. They want to learn if you’ve posted anything online that concerns any part of your claim. In personal injury cases, they also want to know if there are any postings, including photos or videos, of you doing things that you claim you can’t do.

Judges often permit opposing counsel to review this information, even if it’s been set as private. Judges consider internet musings, videos, and pictures to be as fair game in a lawsuit as would be a diary, journal, scrapbook with photos, etc. There a solid chance that opposing counsel will get your social media postings as part of your lawsuit.

This only covers opposing counsel’s efforts to seek this information directly from you during the lawsuit. But don’t forget that, as long as an opposing attorney doesn’t communicate directly with you, they’re allowed to access any social media postings that are publicly available. Your online persona will be immediately searched and reviewed the minute you file a lawsuit. Even if you’ve kept everything private, someone else you’ve communicated the information to may not. It doesn’t matter how the opposing party obtains publicly available information about you on the internet. Once that party has it, it can use it.

Your social media postings are important because anything you say anywhere can later be used against you in a lawsuit. There’s sometimes a mistaken belief that only information produced as part of the lawsuit can be used as evidence. That’s not true. A person’s own words can always be used against them, even if the opposing party learned of such statements through a review of publicly available internet postings.

Social media and other types of internet postings can be used in any type of lawsuit. In personal injury cases, such internet information might include postings about medical treatment, postings about how a person’s doing, or postings showing the injured person engaging in physical activities or enjoying life. In a wrongful termination case, the employer will be interested in postings about the person’s former employment or attempts to find a new job after being fired. In sexual harassment cases, internet postings that suggest that the employee may be less sensitive to sex-based conduct than the employee’s claiming may be used.

The moral of the story is to avoid putting anything online that your common sense tells you will be used against you by opposing counsel. Chances are good counsel will eventually get that information somehow. And they’re guaranteed to try to use it.

Harley Erbe