Facebook and Privacy in Personal Injury Cases
Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
Opposing party access to Facebook and social media accounts in litigation, especially in personal injury cases, is a very troubling reality for some plaintiffs. A pair of court cases below cover the issue of what is necessary for an opposing party to gain full access to a plaintiff’s Facebook or social media account.
McCann v. Harleysville Insurance Company of New York
November 12, 2010
In McCann, plaintiff commenced a lawsuit in New York for damages when her vehicle collided with defendant’s insured. Plaintiff settled the case with the other driver, then initiated suit against her own insurance for underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). The insurance company sought access to plaintiff’s Facebook account, claiming plaintiff had photographs that evidenced whether plaintiff sustained permanent injury. The Supreme Court denied defendant’s motion, claiming that the request was overbroad. Plaintiff was granted a protective order for her Facebook account.
Tompkins v. Detroit Metropolitan Airport
January 18, 2012
In Tompkins, plaintiff has a slip and fall in Detroit Metropolitan Airport, claiming back and other injuries. Defendant sought access to plaintiff’s Facebook account, claiming plaintiff had photographs that were contrary to the severity of injury plaintiff was claiming. The Federal Court in Michigan denied defendant’s request for access to plaintiff’s entire Facebook account. The Court noted that information and photographs set to “private” and not generally available to the public, and thus are generally privileged information. It is only on those occasions in which a plaintiff has public photographs on a social media account that depict contrary evidence to that being claimed in a lawsuit when a request for full access to a social media or Facebook account can be granted.
If you have been injured as a result of negligence on a part of someone else, be mindful of what you post on social media and Facebook. As soon as insurance and lawyers become involved in your injury, you are under surveillance. That surveillance includes your social media accounts. If you post pictures or comments that place you in a negative light, or show that you are exaggerating your injuries, that information can be used against you in a lawsuit. Perhaps even worse, this may lead to you being ordered by a Judge to hand over your private login information to an opposing party.
Be sure you hire a personal injury attorney that understands your rights, and can counsel you in what to do and what not to do in both a lawsuit and your personal life during litigation.
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