When I began practicing law, Facebook, texts, email, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and even Mark Zuckerberg were not even a twinkle in their parents’ or creators’ eye. In fact, I remember typing my submission to law review in law school on my trusty IMB Selectric typewriter and trying to figure out how to ‘triple space’ the submission.

The advances are astounding since those ancient times. However, as with all innovations, they can be used for good or harm depending on the motivation of the user. I advise all prospective clients that in virtually every legal case today, as well as job and school applications and other situations where background could be an issue, their social media posts are subject to scrutiny.

‘Private’ is a relative term. There have been many articles and news stories, as well as lawsuits, regarding the issue of ‘privacy’ on social media sites. Just be aware that anything you post, text or email can be obtained and reviewed by virtually anyone, either through some minimal expertise in computer operations, or eventually through discovery (information gathering) in a legal case. Any items deleted, as in any section of any computer, can be retrieved and examined, including all Facebook posts and photos, and all ‘permanently deleted’ computer items. If you post, assume that it will be viewed by your friends, their friends and family, their coworkers, their coworkers’ friends and family, and bored people who like to snoop around in their spare time, as well as government, employers, investigators or legal professionals.

As with surveillance and other forms of personal investigation; perception is reality. A person claiming significant injury then posting a photo album of their limbo championship from their latest cruise, can expect to have the nature and extent of their injuries questioned extensively. Blow ups of these photos at hearings or trials are also quite persuasive. For example, in a recent workers comp case, part of the defense exhibits were photos from the client’s Facebook showing him happily holding his (large) child with one hand in a carry sack and standing and holding his 90+ pound dog in his arms. In light of the fact he was claiming a totally disabling back injury, these photos did nothing to advance his claim which settled shortly afterwards.

In short, consider anything you post or send to be public information. You never know who is watching.

About the Author

Ken Harrell joined Joye Law Firm in 1994, and has been the managing partner since 2006. With 30 years of experience, he protects the rights of injured South Carolinians, including cases involving workers’ compensation, car accidents, and defective products. Ken also leads the firm’s referral practice, helping to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation. He is a past president of South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates, and has served as the co-chairman of this organization’s legislative affairs committee for 12 years.

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