by Bernard D. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
TODAY, Beginning at 10 AM, central, I will be leading our weekly Facebook live video session.
Today’s topic is social media. You have heard it discussed a million times. Well, today you can hear about it for the million and first time (because it is important and failure to properly advise your client can put you and your client in a bad spot). Social media impacts all areas of the law, especially the work we do: workers’ compensation and personal injury. We have previously blogged about the impact social media can have on workers’ compensation cases.
No matter what type of law you practice and no matter which side you are on, social media has the potential to effect your client’s case. Your failure as an attorney to properly counsel your client on social media use may cause irreparable harm to your client’s case. If you are not advising your clients on social media, you need to get on board now.
Here are ten instructions about social media for injured people:
- Archive the content of current accounts. Destruction of potential evidence may create bigger problems than the information itself. Therefore, it is important to preserve the current content of any social media accounts. Most social media sites include directions for archiving. We designate a staff person to help clients archive correctly.
- Deactivate or discontinue using social media accounts. If you are going to be the plaintiff in a personal injury case, consider deactivating your Facebook profile and other social media accounts. If you are not willing to completely deactivate an account you should—after archiving content —remove any information related to your injury or activities and avoid future posts.
- Turn on the highest privacy setting. If you won’t discontinue use of social media, adjust privacy settings to the highest levels. This means making sure that only actual friends can see the information, rather than friends of friends or the general public. A useful tool is Facebook’s “View As” feature, which allows users to view their profile as it appears to someone else, whether a stranger or a Facebook friend. This might help you see exactly what is visible to the general public, something that isn’t always apparent from privacy settings. Be aware that Facebook publicly publishes “Interests,” even if accounts are otherwise private.
- Beware of “friends.” If social media use continues, it is important to edit “friend lists” so that only certain friends can see photo albums and status updates. Remove any “friends” you do not know well or at all, and accept only friend requests from people you know and trust.
- Become invisible. You can remove yourself from Facebook search results by selecting “only friends” under the “search visibility” option in their profile settings. You can also remove your Facebook page from Google by unchecking the box for “Public Search Listing” in your Internet privacy settings. Make comparable changes to privacy settings in all other social media accounts.
- Take down photos. After archiving current content, remove and un-tag all photos of yourself that are not simple head shots.
- Be cautious. Assume that anything you write on your social media accounts —including status updates, messages, and wall postings—will at some point be seen by defense lawyers, judges, and juries. Think about how such things might be perceived when viewed out of context.
- Preserve all computers, tablets, or cell phones. If you lose or destroy an electronic communications device, opposing counsel could try to make it look like deliberate destruction of evidence. It is better to fight a battle over access to your devices than have a judge instruct a jury that it may assume the contents of the discarded or destroyed device would have been unfavorable to you.
- Don’t send messages or information about the case. Do not send emails, text messages, or “private” social media messages about your claim, health, or activities to anyone except your lawyers. Careless emails and electronic messages can destroy a case.
- Don’t post on websites or web chat groups. While you may find useful information in online support groups, you don’t own the information you post online. Such information you post is highly searchable. You should not enter any information on dating or insurance websites, post on message boards, participate in or comment on social media “private” groups or blogs, or use chat rooms.
Http://www.atlantainjurylawblog.com/trucking-accidents/social-media-instructions-for-clients.html. Thanks to Ken Shigley. Posted Jun 8, 2016.
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Today and in the future, zealous advocacy on behalf of your client must include counseling the client on the subject of social media. As the attorney, you must discuss with your client social media and its implications on the client’s case. Clients must understand that something they would consider to be harmless and not relevant to the case can be used against them by the opposition.
Bernard D. Nomberg has practiced workers’ compensation law in Alabama for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. He has been selected a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine as well as a Top Rated Attorney by B-Metro Magazine.