Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Facebook and Personal Injury

"I was just in a car accident today, everything seems fine."

“I am doing really great today. I am almost doing everything I used to do.”

“I am back to work and everything is going great.”

“No real complaints today.”

Facebook and other social networking make it as easy as a cell phone click to communicate with "friends" and family. When something significant occurs in our lives, one of the first things we do is share that thought online. Something as traumatic as a car accident or other injury is sure to get you dozens of "likes." Having someone "like" one of your comments or posts is the cyber-equivalent of a warm fuzzy hug.

These posts should come with a caution. Once a lawsuit is filed, discovery begins. Written formal questions are posed back and forth in the form of interrogatories or "requests for admission." Parties are requested to produce certain documents. Recently I received the following request from two different clients:

"Do you currently, or have you ever, had an account with a social networking website and/or blogging website? (i.e. Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Friendster, Tumblr, Wordpress, Blogger, Blogspot, etc.) _______ If so, please list each and every website with which you have an account as well as your username and/or html for each and every website as well as the date you first signed-up for an account with the website."

"For each and every website listed above, please provide the password associated with the username that you utilize to gain access to your profiles and/or accounts."

There are several other related requests that were also included.

So far, I have refused to provide such private information. Clearly, the purpose for the request is for the Defendant to get access to any statements that have been posted online related to the injury or any corresponding photos. The argument is made that once you post comments or pictures online, the information posted is no longer private or protected by attorney/client privilege. To request passwords and usernames clearly calls for information that goes far beyond information that is relevant to the injury and there are less invasive methods of obtaining that information.

What is and isn't obligated to be disclosed continues to be up for debate. Until the dust settles, the best advice I can give is to keep injury related comments between you and your lawyer.

You will note on the back of my business card, I ask that you "Make all of your social media sites 'private.'" Better advice might be to not put anything at all.

Adam W. Barlow, Esq.
Adam Barlow Law, P.C.
480-461-0533 (fax)


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