Social media is adding a new twist to what is considered typical discovery me as a South Florida personal injury lawyer. Traditionally, Defendants, who are sued by lawyers representing injured victims, bombard the Plaintiff with stacks of discovery that includes interrogatories (written questions), requests for admissions (yes and no questions), and requests for production (asking that documents and items, like X-rays, be produced).
As the cases progress, Plaintiffs are expected to appear at a deposition (sworn question and answer interview) that is transcribed by court reporters, and, often, to submit to physical and emotional exams, by specially selected medical doctors, to verify or challenge an injury.
The latest twist involves requesting access to a Plaintiff’s Facebook and/or Twitter account. This can easily cross the line from a legitimate effort to “discover” relevant information to a fishing expedition that invades the most intimate privacy of a litigant.
Florida’s courts have not had to consider the issue yet, but as this type of discovery becomes more prevalent, and I anticipate that it will, courts around the country will be forced to consider whether or not lawyers are entitled to take a peak at a Plaintiff’s Facebook wall or Tweets.
I recommend that anyone, currently a party or claimant in a pending Florida car crash claim or medical malpractice claim, immediately shut down public access to their social media. I would suggest, those involved in the most serious cases of wrongful death or catastrophic injury, actually consider closing their accounts, pending the outcome of the litigation.
Social media portals expand virtually every day. As people are now living in virtual reality shows, where they Tweet the most miniscule and often mundane activities of their daily lives (guilty), caution needs to be exercised as to what messages, photos and “statuses” they post, as they may unknowingly hand the defense a case killing piece of evidence.
Let me be clear, I am not advocating that one should act a certain way simply because they may have fallen and been hurt at a Miami Dade county grocery store and are suing for damages or had a motorcycle crash in Florida I am simply advising that Plaintiffs may be sharing information in real time about themselves with some folks who are not necessarily their “Friends.”