Published: 04 October 2018
Author: Peter Claven
How Google, social media and surveillance can impact personal injury cases
Cases are often won and lost on the credibility of the injured person, particularly when dealing with injuries that can’t be seen by the human eye, like a back injury or a cardiac condition. What the injured person says, and whether they are believed is hugely important.
It can mean the difference between losing a case and having a very successful outcome.
As so much is at stake, the party defending the case the injured person brings will be looking for any information that they can get that will give them an advantage. If what they can dig up is inconsistent with what you have previously said, all the better for them.
The best approach is to tell your lawyer everything that could possibly be relevant to your case. You should assume that what you have been doing is known by the other side. What you tell your lawyer is “privileged”, which means in most circumstances it will stay private unless your lawyer decides it will help your case to provide that information to the other side. Because of this, there is no downside in telling your lawyer.
The other side may Google you
It’s easy for the other side to simply Google your name to find information on you. If you can find it, then it’s likely that the other side already has it.
There has been many a time where I have Googled a worker during the preparation of a case and I find something of relevance that they haven’t mentioned to me. Usually, this is more due to them not realising it may be important than intentionally hiding it. An example might be if you play pool or darts in a local competition, those results are often posted online and are searchable.
How can social media content impact a legal case?
The same goes for your activity on Facebook, Twitter and all other social media platforms that have a public aspect to them. What you do on Facebook, for example, can be very revealing even if you are not necessarily posting pictures and words yourself. Cross-examination of an injured person often heavily features the posting and activity that the worker has made on Facebook. We suggest that reviewing your Facebook and other social media settings to only allow people connected with you to view your posts and activity is advisable. It will also prevent what is a pretty unpleasant feeling in having your personal pictures and thoughts scrutinised by various lawyers.
The potential impact of surveillance
Surveillance is a different beast, in that the other side is directly observing you through an agent as you go about your daily life. Again, the same advice applies. Let your lawyer know what you have been up to if it might have some bearing on your case. That way, your lawyer can decide whether it’s something that needs to be disclosed to the other side.
In general, surveillance only becomes damaging when it shows you doing something that hasn’t been disclosed. As an example, your claim might be for a neck injury which restricts how much you can lift. Due to financial problems you had to move house and couldn’t afford removalists to do it for you, and help from friends wasn’t available. You might have had to move some heavy items yourself to get the job done but felt increased pain afterwards. If this is disclosed to your lawyer it can be dealt with appropriately. If it’s not mentioned and then you are cross-examined on it by the other side, it could hurt your case.
The golden rule with Google, social media and surveillance is – tell your lawyer what you have been doing if it might have any bearing on your case.