Skip to Main Content

The Dangers of Being Social on Facebook

It seems as if the entire world is on Facebook.  At last count, the social media platform boasted an active account number of 1.49 billion users.  While Mark Zuckerberg’s brain child has been insanely successful, it has also dealt crippling blows to plaintiffs and defendants alike in personal injury cases.

Many people wrongly assume their Facebook page is private or is otherwise inaccessible to the general public.  Even if the settings are “locked down,” information can still be gleaned through a Court order or by searching the pages of associated family and friends. So, even if you don’t post an update about going to a party, that doesn’t mean no one else present will do the same.

When you are involved in litigation, the best advice is to simply stop using social media.  (This is not the same thing as deleting posts – which can be even more damaging to a case and is not what this blog is meant to infer). The point is to explain that with 1.49 billion users, you should know that the platform is not a secret: people are searching for you and grabbing whatever they find.  Something that may seem innocent to you can be blown out of proportion by a defense lawyer or insurance company and can cast doubt on a perfectly valid claim.

For example, a simple statement from a plaintiff dealing with a back injury that he had a good time at the hunting camp can be misconstrued as follows: he had a good time lugging camping gear across hilly terrain, sleeping on the ground, and bringing down a 12-point buck while crouched behind a thicket.  The original comment simply raises unnecessary questions as to the individual’s level of activity and degree of injury.  The truth of the matter may be that the individual simply was driven to the campsite by his spouse for a single afternoon – just to get out of the house and then he returned home that same evening – never exerting himself and never compromising his case.  The problem is now this post-injury trip to the camp ground has to be explained.

Even though Facebook seems to hurt more plaintiffs than defendants, it does go both ways.  I handled a case recently where a high-ranking employee for a defendant posted a litany of images and information on his personal Facebook page.  The pictures and information were relevant to the case and clearly put the defendant in a bad light.  That case settled shortly after the Facebook information was discovered and presented to the defense lawyers.

In a way, Facebook is a self-reporting surveillance platform.  It is therefore sage advice to be aware of your online presence and posted activities.  This is not about hiding or concealing, it is about protecting yourself from misinterpretation by uninvited eyes, all 1.49 billion of them.

If you have questions on how you may be affected by Facebook or other social media outlets, contact our personal injury lawyers at Zehl & Associates today by dialing 1-888-603-3636.