Facebook Status Used by Dallas Prosecutor To Do What?
OMG, we are all so addicted to our Facebook and Twitter feeds, right?
But today’s article about an Assistant District Attorney so drunk early Saturday morning that she crashed into a tree near her home in East Dallas was especially shocking. Not only because the lawyer paid to prosecute the masses driving while intoxicated was herself guilty of DWI. She then had the nerve to ask the arresting officer to let her off because they were Facebook friends!
Social media is so pervasive that it impacts all areas of the law including the one I specialize in, car wrecks.
Can someone’s use of Facebook hurt their claim for reimbursement of their personal injury damages?
Yes, more than you might imagine.
But what if you have been in a car crash — why shouldn’t you be able to tell your friends? You tell them when even trivial things happen every day.
I advise my clients to take a break from social media until the case is resolved. Rather than broadcast the facts of your case and ask random people for advice, it would be a better idea to talk to a Fort Worth car accident lawyer and find out what to do. Here’s why.
Your Posts Can Be Used Against You
Social media can feel deceptively private and personal. But everyone involved in a potential court case should assume their posts are public. Just setting your account to private will not protect you from a request for production or a subpoena for your social media postings.
Attorneys know this and scour social media sites to get negative information about the other driver and the biases of potential jurors.
Several years ago, mystaff found this (and other far racier) photos on the at-fault driver’s Facebook page pictured here. THey helped convince her attorney to pay a much larger settlement amount than his insurance company had authorized just before trial.
Some attorneys have gone so far as to send a “friend” request to injured plaintiffs, a practice that has been found to be unethical. It should go without saying that a person in an automobile accident should never accept a friend request from people they don’t know.
However nothing prevents attorneys from looking for public information and using it to their advantage. That includes Twitter, Instagram and friends’ Facebook pages. Your private photo may make it into the public sphere when it is liked, tagged or reposted to another site.
In an extreme example, the daughter of Reverend Al Sharpton climbed to the top of a challenging mountain in Bali and shared her experience on Instagram. But at the time, she was in the midst of a $5 million (really?) claim against NYC for a sprained ankle she claims occurred when she tripped over a pothole. She handed the defense the evidence it needed to get her suit dismissed.
This is a serious problem across Texas. I listened early today to a State Bar of Texas webcast about how to pick the best jury by the venerable Houston lawyer Jim Mac Perdue, Sr. His firm makes its clients sign an agreement promising not to post anything online.
Five ways Facebook posts are manipulated
1. Your words and pictures may be twisted
You could actually be in tremendous pain but look perfectly healthy at a family event or vacation. Sure, you can explain, but the damage is done as soon as the defense pulls out your smiling picture — even if you had been grimacing before due to pain.
2. You might give away important information to the defense
As a personal injury attorney, my job is to strategize, including what information to release and when. Your post might undermine that strategy by releasing damaging information that you believed was innocuous.
3. You might admit fault
Even though you did not cause the automobile crash, your remarks that “I should have known something was about to happen” or “can you believe this old car could cause so much damage?” could easily be used against you.
4. You might post too much
Of course, car wrecks are traumatic, but social media comments are usually upbeat and superficial. If you continue your daily updates about your life as if nothing has affected your life, be assured that the judge and jury will not be impressed.
5. You might end any chance of negotiating a favorable settlement out of court
We know that 98% of cases settle out of court, so there’s no reason to alienate the insurance company when you bad mouth it online, right?
Before logging on, imagine you are sitting across a table from aggressive insurance attorneys. Like the police warn you, everything you say can and will be used against you in court. Just say no to social media. Also to using your cell phone while driving.
Berenson Injury Law is dedicated to protecting our clients’ rights. We fight to get them the compensation they deserve after they’ve been injured in a car or truck collision.
Please contact us here if you have any questions about your automobile accident in the Fort Worth or Dallas area.