Social media dominates our lives—for many people, it seems virtually every thing they do or every opinion they have is put out on social platforms. But putting your life online comes at a cost. If you’re heading toward civil litigation, then you need to be aware of how social media in court may work against you.
Let’s say you were in a car accident and filed a personal injury claim. Let’s further assume you’re an honest person and that you didn’t fake your injuries, so having deceit exposed isn’t something you need to worry about. Even in a case like this, you still need to exercise caution.
Defense lawyers have taken photos as innocuous as someone smiling in their backyard and used it to claim the plaintiff wasn’t as injured or unhappy as they claimed, thereby seeking to reduce pain and suffering damages. A famous case in 2011, Lester v. Allied Concrete saw damages in a wrongful death lawsuit slashed because a Facebook picture was found with the widower, post-accident, holding up a beer can with his T-shirt proclaiming a love for “hot moms.”
Changing your privacy settings to only show content to your personal network won’t protect you in court. Courts have consistently ruled that even if Facebook calls it a “privacy” setting, it’s really not privacy in a legal sense—social media content is, by definition, meant to be shared and therefore admissible at trial.
Deleting posts won’t help. Deleted content can still be retrieved if the court believes there’s reason to believe it’s relevant to the case. And courts may see the mere fact content was deleted during a case as a tacit admission of its relevance.
So be prudent with your social media posts at all times. Go silent in the event you end up in a legal battle. And whatever you’ve done, even if it was questionable, just live with it and explain it to the jury.