How does social media affect the cases we handle?
Social media is everywhere in today’s society. Facebook, Google+ and Twitter have been around for a long time, in internet years. New social media platforms spring up all the time. People are sharing every aspect of their lives. For someone pursuing a personal injury, workers’ compensation or disability case, social media can have a huge impact on the ultimate outcome of the case. How does social media affect the cases we handle? This article will discuss some of the ways social media impact court cases.
Posting about your boss can get you fired
Let’s face it. Some bosses are real jerks. You may be tempted to lash out against your boss or perhaps your employer on your personal facebook page. You can get fired for this. What about the First Amendment you ask? Well, the First Amendment protects individuals from retaliation by the government, not private companies. There is no First Amendment right to complain about your boss, especially in a public forum such as social media. Unless you are in a union or have an employment contract, you are considered an employee-at-will and can be fired for any reason whatsoever so long as it is not discriminatory. So, disparaging your boss can be grounds for being fired. Our advice: don’t even think about doing it.
Social media is the motherlode for damaging information
When someone has a legal case, posts on social media can have a devastating impact on their case. Here are some real life examples, thankfully, not from any of my clients.
- a car accident victim in Cancun during spring break while claiming injuries changed his life
- an employee claiming she was fired illegally listed her status as, “retired”
- in a construction accident, a dispute arose over which employer controlled the worker. The worker’s LinkedIn profile was considered conclusive despite universal denials
- husbands and wives frequently discover affairs through access (inadvertent or intentional) to their spouses’ social media accounts
Most lawyers consider it standard practice to do an internet search on the parties in a case. All it takes is one post, one photo, one tweet, and it can change the course of a case. We cannot expect our clients to take a complete hiatus from social media during their case, but we do advise them of the consequences their posts can have on their case.
Once it’s on the internet, it is there for good
There is no “un-post” key on the internet. As much as you may think you have deleted something on the internet, it will always be there, somewhere, waiting for someone to find it. Teenagers and college students are voracious consumers of social media. It can be difficult for a young person to comprehend that photos they post of themselves on Instagram with alcohol (or worse) will always be on the internet. Employers frequently do searches on potential applicants. A rant against a friend, relative or co-employee (remember your boss!) can change lives. Cyber-bullying is a real and serious problem.
Use social media responsibly
Social media is an incredible technological advance. All indications are that it will continue to pervade society. But social media can have legal consequences. Speaking of social media, if you have enjoyed this article, feel free to click on the icons below and share, like or tweet this or any other Third Thursday article.