Social media has become an integral part of today’s society. In a recent blog I discussed how insurance companies are beginning to use social media against clients in the claims process. In another entry I have explained how posts on Facebook or Twitter could potentially hurt a case. The question about what to do with a client’s social media sites is a tricky one. In some cases, personal injury lawyers suggest their clients suspend their profiles for the duration of the case. In others, the attorneys simply advise clients be careful and selective in their posts.
According to E-Lessons Learned, what one Virginia attorney instructed his client to do was ethically questionable and lead to disciplinary actions. Both the lawyer and his client faced fines after editing the contents of the client’s Facebook account. In the case of Lester v. Allied Concrete Co., the defense sought screen prints of Lester’s Facebook profile, photos he posted, and public messages he sent and received. After receiving the request, the attorney instructed Lester to edit the content on his profile. The attorney believed this was acceptable due to the way the request was phrased.
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Lester subsequently deleted his Facebook account and denied doing so under oath on at least two occasions. Ultimately, the deception and further attempts to cover up the incident were discovered by the court. Though the trial was over, with Lester being awarded over 8 million dollars, the Court found that both Lester and his attorney had acted inappropriately. Lester was fined $180,000. The Court determined his lawyer owed $542,000.
Ultimately, deletion is not always the best answer. Before making any changes to your social media profiles, speak with your personal injury attorney. Perhaps the better solution is to think twice before posting anything that could be deemed questionable.