People today post numerous details about their personal lives on social networking sites. However, even a picture of yourself smiling subsequent to an accident can significantly influence the outcome of your case. If you’re claiming a back injury, for example, you shouldn’t be posting about any activities like bike riding or hiking, as this can damage your case.
A blatant example is a Florida case called Davenport v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, where the judge ruled in favor of the defense (State Farm). After an accident where a woman sustained physical injury, State Farm requested all photographs from Ms. Davenports’s social networking sites since the date of the accident. In this case, State Farm’s legal team was looking for evidence to see whether or not Ms. Davenport was truly as injured as she was claiming.
Litigants often use social networking sites to seek information about the opposing party. They may look for photographs showing that the party may not be as injured as he or she states; perhaps out horseback riding after claiming a serious back injury. In the Davenport v. State Farm case, Ms. Davenport objected to the defendant searching through her personal photographs.
However, the court ordered that "all photographs posted, uploaded or otherwise added to any social networking sites or blogs, including but not limited to Facebook.com, Myspace.com, Twitter.com or any similar websites posted since the date of the accident alleged in the complaint. This includes photographs posted by others in which Chelsea Davenport [the plaintiff] has been tagged or otherwise identified therein.” The court made this decision because the photographs illustrated Ms. Davenport’s “quality of life.”
Virginia courts also allow social networking site posts as part of discovery in various civil and criminal cases.
What does this mean for you? Be wary about what you post on social media — it may someday come back to haunt you. Especially if you are going through a lawsuit, do not discuss your case online, do not post photographs that could hurt your case, and do not “friend” anyone you don’t know personally.
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