Remember the phrase from television cop and detective shows, "Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law ?" That line is not just reserved for criminal cases anymore. With the advent of people "speaking" on their social networking sites, texting, Tweeting, YouTube and posting, crafty insurance company defense lawyers have discovered ways to dredge information about injured victims of car, truck and bicycle crashes. The new warning should be, "Anything you say, post, Tweet, digitally record and/or text WILL be used against you in a court of law when you try to pursue your legal rights in a personal injury case against an unsafe driver.
After filing a lawsuit for injuries and losses sustained in a car wreck, the lengthy and often very intrusive stage of “discovery” gets underway. Discovery is a huge part of a personal injury lawsuit since it provides an opportunity for both sides of the lawsuit to get information from the other side and flesh out the facts of the case. Most people understand that when they file a lawsuit related to a personal injury claim, they are opening themselves up to some serious investigation—particularly about their current and prior health, employment and activities of daily living. But, more and more, plaintiff’s are realizing just how much of their life gets opened up to the opposing side—the defendant, the insurance company, and the lawyers.
Specifically, plaintiffs across the country are finding that huge amounts of their social media information are being poured over by insurance company defense attorneys and computer experts. This includes friendly posts, chatter and even pictures that you might put on Facebook, Yahoo, MySpace, Twitter and other sites. It also might mean that the opposing side gets to access Blackberry and text messaging records from your cell phone. To a plaintiff, this type of inquiry might seem awfully antagonistic. So, what, exactly, is the opposing side looking for?
In tomorrow’s post, we will look at this new area of "discovery," and steps that can be taken to protect yourself and your loved ones from the kinds of invasions of privacy and personal information that were never intended for "public display" to those who are not truly your "friends," "Linked-In" or in your "Social Network."