Regarding Email and Social Media
Our office typically uses email to communicate with our clients. Please be aware that email communications may be intercepted by third parties if precautions are not taken:
Do not email us from a work email account or from a work device such as a computer, smart phone, or tablet.
- Some work computers and other electronics (both in the office and employer-provided home computers) may include logging and tracking programs installed by your employer.
- Use caution when emailing our office from these devices, even from a third-party email program such as Gmail, as these messages may be intercepted by your employer.
- When emailing our office, never include anyone in the To, CC, or BCC field who is not a member of our office. Including a spouse, friend, or other person in an email communication to our office may destroy the confidentiality of the message and subject it to disclosure to the defendants.
If you belong to a public social networking site such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc., you may want to close your account until your case is completely finished.
If you choose not to close your accounts, we warn you to use great caution when sharing information on these sites. Whatever you write or post, or have written or posted, will probably fall into the hands of the defense attorney or insurance company. Additionally, when you are tagged in a post or picture, untagging yourself does not remove the post. It is now standard practice for them to run computer searches and investigations to obtain information about your personal life. They will try to obtain this information without your knowledge or permission. Increasingly, they will demand that you provide them with your account passwords or a download of your entire account, and oftentimes, you will be required to provide them with this information. They can also ask the court to order release of your password information if you refuse to provide it, and courts will often grant such requests.
If you belong to a social networking site, you should immediately:
- Verify that all your settings are on PRIVATE (the highest setting possible) and that no information about you is publicly available.
- Sign off of your account and look yourself up. That way you will be able to see your account as strangers see it. If an excess of information is being provided to the general public, you should adjust your account settings accordingly.
- Even with the highest privacy settings, you should only write or post items that are completely unrelated to your case.
- Stop interacting with anyone related to your case over social media. You should not write anything regarding any injuries related to your case, anything about the status of your case, or anything indicating that you are even involved in a court case. This applies not only to public posts, but to private messages as well. These sites are open to the public. The law is unclear if or to what extent privacy laws apply.
We understand you will likely wish to keep your sites active. If so, we make the following specific recommendations:
- Allow anyone to become a “friend” on a website like Facebook unless you are absolutely sure you know that person.
- Post any photographs or videos of yourself (or enable others to “tag” you).
- Write or disclose anything about your personal life that you would be embarrassed to have a defense attorney use against you in front of a judge and jury.
- Send e-mails or instant messages regarding your case to anyone except your attorneys.
- Send texts regarding your case to anyone.
- Participate in blogs, chat-rooms, or message boards.
Additionally, DO NOT DELETE anything in your social media accounts, do not delete any emails, and do not delete any text messages or call logs relevant to your case. If you delete these items, you have destroyed evidence and the defendant will be entitled to assume that whatever you deleted was favorable to their case. This will be detrimental to your claims.
We have seen an increase in electronic surveillance of these types of accounts and sites by insurance companies, investigators, and defense attorneys. They hope to discover information to embarrass, humiliate, or hurt you. They will look for pictures or comments by you or your friends that they can take out of context to prove that your injury is exaggerated or false. We have seen innocent, harmless joking between private “Friends” used and distorted by insurance companies to try to convince a judge and jury that a plaintiff is dishonest.
Be aware that insurance companies may ask the court to order release of all information contained within your home computers, laptop hard drives, tablets, cellphones, and other electronic devices regarding the issues we have discussed above. We have seen insurance companies subpoena cell phone records to obtain transcripts from texting. We have also seen them subpoena content from Facebook and other social networking sites. These sites usually comply without hesitation.
We understand that asking you to limit your social networking is a great inconvenience. But your case is very important. We cannot protect you fully unless you follow our warnings and instructions.
Finally, our law firm and staff members do use social media. Our policy is not to “friend” our clients until the legal case has concluded. This is because we are in an Attorney-Client relationship with you and need to establish clear boundaries to protect this relationship for so long as your case is active.
If you have any questions or concerns about this, do not hesitate to contact our office.