Rules of the Road for Social Media in Maritime Personal Injury Cases
We posted earlier about the role of Facebook and other social media in maritime personal injury litigation, and are now following up with some dos and don’ts of social media. This list is only a general outline and does not by any means cover all aspects of social media. The biggest piece of advice we can give you, is use common sense. If something feels personal and you would feel violated if the other side got to see it, Facebook probably isn’t the place to talk about it.
1. DO beef up your privacy settings. As discussed in our earlier post, the other side will likely be able to get a copy of your Facebook or other social media account after a lawsuit has been filed. However, they have to specifically ask for it and are not entitled to it prior to the formal discovery process. A huge portion of cases are settled prior to ever filing a lawsuit, and in those cases the other side would never be entitled to dig into your personal life via your social media account. Furthermore, even where a lawsuit has been filed, strict privacy settings would prevent the other side from looking at your social media account without your knowledge, or looking at portions of your accounts that are not discoverable. We recommend having the strictest privacy settings available.
2. DON’T post pictures of yourself or allow others to post pictures of you doing activities that relate to or might aggravate your injury. For example, if you have a back injury, it is probably not a good idea to post pictures of yourself showing off how much you can lift. As an aside, you shouldn’t be engaging in these activities anyway. Even if a photo was taken prior to your injury, if it is posted after you were injured, you may run into a real headache having to prove when it was taken. Don’t post any pictures related to what happened. If you think something is relevant to your case, it doesn’t belong on Facebook.
3. DO limit what you say about your injury. We understand that in this day and age, lots of people rely heavily on social media to share and receive information. We are not suggesting that you can’t tell your friends about your injury, but save the details for another forum. For social media purposes give as few details as possible. And hey, if someone is interested in hearing more about what you have been going through, maybe that means that you are overdue for some face time.
4. DON’T post anything about what your lawyer tells you. All communications between you and your lawyer are confidential and the other side is not entitled to find out what you or your lawyer said to each other. However, as soon as you tell someone outside of the attorney-client relationship about those communications, they could be discovered by the other side. Generally, if your lawyer tells you something, it is not intended to be shared with other people. You have nothing to gain by sharing the contents of attorney-client conversations with your Facebook friends, but a lot to lose. Our advice: keep it to yourself.
5. DO keep it PG. If the other side gets their hands on your social media account, it doesn’t bode well if it is filled with expletives or pictures of you engaging in illegal activity. Courts and juries tend to like law abiding people. You have nothing to gain by putting questionable material on your social media account.
6. DON’T post anything about the other side. Posting about the other side will not help you in any way, and it might hurt you. Even if you are really frustrated and angry with how you have been treated by the other side, find some way other than tweeting to blow off steam.