“The internet never forgets.” That’s how the saying goes, and yet while it is plainly true, many people tend to forget this rule when sitting in front of a computer screen.
Social media sites are especially dangerous because people often treat them like an online diary, posting things they would never say out loud or to someone in person. And just because you post something for your friends and family, doesn’t mean they are the only ones who can see it. After all, words like “privacy” and “delete” are really only relative terms when it comes to the digital world.
A growing number of lawyers, insurance companies, and investigators are now using blogs and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to gather valuable evidence in civil and criminal court cases all over the country.
Take Oregon teen Jacob Cox-Brown, for example. The 18-year-old was driving home drunk early in the morning on New Year’s Day when he struck two cars. He then fled the scene of the accident and drove home. Shortly after, the Cox-Brown posted a Facebook status about it to his more than 600 Facebook friends, saying, “Drivin drunk…classsic 😉 but to whoever’s vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P.”
After the local police department was made aware of the message, Cox-Brown was arrested for the hit and run accident when they found tell-tale signs of damage on his car.
In a press release, the local police commented that with a status like this one, “you have to figure that it’s not going to stay private for long.” And the same holds true for courtroom battles also.
Lawyers and insurance companies now comb through social media sites for anything that may contradict a plaintiff’s or defendant’s words and strengthen their case. Photos, comments, status updates—it’s all up for grabs in the modern courtroom, and judges are increasingly allowing attorneys to use these “private” sites as evidential support in their case.
Defense lawyers in personal injury cases are particularly benefitting from this new digital weapon. For instance, in cases of negligence where a plaintiff claims to be seriously hurt due to an injury from a defective product, Facebook pictures of them smiling happily and posts that show them being active can be brought before a judge to contest the severity of the injury.
Even seemingly unrelated posts can be twisted out of context and used by the other side’s attorneys to make an innocent claimant look bad in front of a judge.
The best advice we can offer someone who is planning to be involved in a personal injury lawsuit or is already engaged in a legal battle—whether as the plaintiff or defendant—is to avoid posting anything during the duration of your case.
And if you do, be sure to consult with an experienced Denver personal injury attorney beforehand.