Where worker’s compensation cases are concerned, insurance company attorneys will look for information about a Plaintiff wherever they can. Well, it appears that –for the most part– enthusiastic users of social media sites and applications can rest easy for now; some recent legal decisions indicate that judges aren’t in any hurry to give blanket access to Plaintiff status updates, personal photos, and related content (though at least one judge in Georgia ruled otherwise in 2010).
A Supreme Court judge in New York reminded defense attorneys that just because they ask for something, doesn’t mean they have blanket rights to it….they need to establish why they need it and that it will supply information that can’t be ascertained by reasonable, usual means such as depositions, pretrial examinations, and interrogatories.
Suffolk County Justice Arthur G. Pitts responded with the following on a Notice to Admit that sought Plaintiffs admission of their social media use:
“It is well settled that the purpose of a Notice to Admit is to eliminate from the litigation, factual matters which will not be in dispute at trial, not to obtain information in lieu of other disclosure devices…[It] may not be utilized to request admission of material issues or ultimate or conclusory facts which can only be resolved after a full trial. It may not be employed as a substitute for other disclosure devices, such as examinations before trial, depositions upon written questions or interrogatories. Herein, the information sought by defendant [via the] Notice to Admit, would be available through other disclosure devices, including simply asking the plaintiff at his examination before trial whether he utilizes social media sites. A Notice to Admit clearly is the improper device to obtain such information.”
Even with these recent challenges to accessing information about a Plaintiff via social media, you still need to be mindful of how you are using the internet’s popular networking tools.
1) If you are involved in any sort of litigation, it’s best to just simply leave any mention of it off of Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.
2) Be mindful of other things you post as they relate to your case. For instance, say you’re suing an employer for worker’s comp benefits because of a fall. In that circumstance, maybe you shouldn’t be posting pictures of yourself on Facebook that show you posing at the top of a ladder, flashing a cheesy grin and giving two thumbs up.
3) Think about the way friends and family might chance to use social media. If you’re in litigation for workers’ compensation, your wife’s enthusiastic revelation via Twitter that “My husband and I rocked our FACES OFF at the concert last night!!1!” probably isn’t the greatest of ideas.
4) If you have an expectation of privacy, then you should act accordingly: Lock down all your social media as tightly as possible. Blogs can be password-protected, Twitter can be locked, Facebook allows you to show as much or as little of your life as you prefer based on individual settings. Still, though, there are no guarantees that your online life cannot be accessed.
5) Like anything else in life, common sense should prevail here. If anything in you says, “Should I hit publish on this?” you probably should not.
Remember, picking up a phone could save you a lot of headache in the long run: If you’re unclear on what matters and what does not in relation to your worker’s compensation case, call your attorney for guidance.