These days, most of us spend hours online communicating via email and social media - Chances are, you found this blog post via social media or an email!
While there are countless benefits to being able to share information quickly with people around the world anytime we choose, online communications have also been used to indicate a person's state of mind, show where a person was at a particular day and time, show collaboration between two parties, and to contradict statements made in court or in pre-trial disclosures.
In this post, we will include ways your online activity can affect different types of legal cases plus practical tips to avoid the potential hazards of online communication.
When a personal injury case goes to court, the burden is on the injured person to prove the required elements of the claim being alleged. The claimant will usually call upon medical experts, as well as any other specialists or witnesses, including family and friends, who can testify to the claimant’s pain. It is up to the defense to try to dig up evidence that suggests that damages are not nearly as severe as the claimant purports.
If the claimant is claiming bodily injury, postings which show a supposedly injured individual freely moving about, engaging in vigorous physical activity (dancing, for example) severely undermine one’s credibility. In the case of PTSD, claims of emotional damage may be denied in light of photographs or video showing the defendant in a festive mood. Clearly, one could argue that individual social media posts may be taken out of context and therefore not fully understood, but unfortunately, it may be difficult for a jury to see past “evidence” that appears to contradict a personal injury claim.
Divorce, Child Support & Child Custody
In a divorce case, online shares can create plenty of evidence that can be used against one or both parties to affect alimony, child support, and child custody.
Couples who are going through tough times must remember that their actions during a separation period can have a significant impact on the divorce or financial obligations after the divorce; any evidence - including pictures, video, and dating profiles - can affect the amount of alimony or spousal support a party must give (or receive). Additionally, claims of insufficient funds to pay alimony or child support are hard to believe when evidence of spending lavishly on meals, material objects, and vacations is posted online. Lastly, reckless or irresponsible behavior documented online can be considered evidence of poor parenting ability, severely affecting child custody.
Helpful Social Media Tips to Keep In Mind
- Presume that every online communication will be entered into evidence - This includes emails and text messages. Don't send any text message, Facebook status update, or e-mail in a moment of anger.
- Make friends aware. Remember it doesn’t have to be you posting… Being tagged or included in pictures can be enough to get you in trouble.
- Even posts you consider harmless could be interpreted by the opposing counsel to mean something you never intended. This is why we often advise clients to take a break from social media entirely during their legal battle.
- Do not accept any new friend or follow requests unless you know the person well.
- Sit down with your attorney to learn about the laws in your state and how your use of social media can adversely affect you.
Remember, once something is shared online, it can be hard to make it go away forever even if you delete it; screenshots live forever and experts can be hired to track down old posts.
If you have a legal problem and would like to discuss a potential case with an experienced legal expert, please book your free consultation with us at any of our eight tristate office locations by clicking the button below or calling us at 1-800-LA FIRMA (1-800-523-4762).