Trial lawyers have been granted permission to study the social media pages of jurors. Reading Facebook, blogs, and tweets has been a useful information gathering tool to learn the personal beliefs and biases of people before they are picked to serve. And all too often, jury members discuss their feelings about cases, even though being told by judges not to do so.
However the ABA prohibits lawyers from “friending” jurors or tricking them into divulging private information.
The use of the internet by jurors has caused problems for years. Posts on Facebook during a trial for kidnapping and rape. Facebook, again, this time during a murder trial. Tweets during a civil trial. Posts on Twitter and Facebook during a federal corruption trial.
Here in Texas, an intoxicated driver was on trial for killing a family in McAllen and causing the death of a passenger in her SUV. The tragic accident occurred when the alleged drunk driver’s SUV veered into the eastbound lane on Highway 100 east of Los Fresnos and collided head-on with a Toyota carrying four family members that included a three-year-old and 13-year-old child. The district attorney’s office attempted to subpoena the Facebook account of the driver to learn more about her actions before, during, and after the crash.
Evidence from social media site is used commonly in motor vehicle accident cases. This office successfully used the Facebook postings of a young woman recently to contradict her version of how a collision happened. Information posted can be used against both sides in a lawsuit.
Postings in social media as evidence in crash cases
Incriminating statements or pictures on social media sites can be used to strengthen and weaken personal injury or wrongful death civil cases. Insurance companies who are aware social media evidence incriminates their insured may be more eager to settle cases with injured plaintiffs, while Facebook evidence that is admissible under court evidence rules can be used by plaintiffs to meet their burden of proving that the defendant was to blame for an auto accident.
Those involved in car accident claims, however, need to be careful about any pictures of themselves that show them engaged in activity, as this could be used by insurers to undermine injury claims and suggest that injuries are exaggerated. For plaintiffs in accident claims, it is advisable to talk to a lawyer before posting or posing for Facebook pages.
n increasing trend in personal injury litigation is for insurance companies and their lawyers trying to gain access to your social networking sites. Sometimes this includes the use of trickery to get access to your information. Once there, they’ll take statements or photos entirely out of context to try and argue that you’re not as hurt as you claim.
I’ve never had a client harmed by social media, but I don’t want you to be the first.
Some attorneys suggest that their clients cease all use of social media while the client’s case is pending. While that would be nice, I also think it’s unrealistic. I know social media has become a part of culture and life.
So if you’re going to continue to use social media, here are a few guidelines that can help you not ruin your case.
1. Don’t discuss your case in any fashion on a social networking site.
2. Don’t mention activities you’re involved in; no talking about hobbies, vacations, etc.
3. Don’t post photos of yourself. Trust me, they’ll be taken out of context in ways you can never imagine.
4. Keep your privacy settings strong.
5. Don’t allow a new “friend” unless you absolutely know who they are and trust them. There are repeated stories of insurance company representatives trying to “friend” injured persons to get access to the injured persons’ social media sites.
These are just general guidelines. If you are injured and want more specific advice, feel free to call us or contact us.
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident in North Texas, contact a personal injury lawyer in Fort Worth today. Call the Berenson Law Offices at (888) 801-8585 to discuss your case at no charge for the first meeting or call.