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Be Careful What You Post on Social Media After Your Personal Injury

A slip-and-fall personal injury can be devastating. A company’s negligence in failing to properly maintain its cracked pavement or slippery floors can cause you months of pain and suffering, and even permanently cost you your mobility. Nevertheless, in most cases life doesn’t end with a slip-and-fall, and if you use social media you will likely continue posting. That’s why you should be aware of one Florida court’s controversial ruling.

Standing Up for Privacy Following Devastating Injury

In 2010, Maria Nucci was shopping at a local Target store when she slipped and fell on a slippery substance that, she alleges, had not been properly cleaned. The accident caused her serious neck, shoulder, and back injuries that eventually required a cervical discectomy and a fusion surgery. Maria and her husband took on the colossal retailer, seeking compensation for her pain, suffering, medical expenses, missed earnings, and diminution of ability to enjoy her life.

Upon filing the suit, Maria found her privacy slipping away as well. The corporation’s attorneys had accessed her Facebook page and viewed more than 1,200 of her photographs. Not only did they view the pictures, but they actually demanded that Maria preserve the photographs for their later inspection. The company’s lawyers followed up on a surveillance video showing her carrying water, hoping to obtain photographic evidence of Maria doing something inconsistent with her claimed damages. In response, Maria’s attorneys objected that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy for her account, which had always been private since its creation.

How One Court’s Decision Affects Your Privacy

The disagreement made its way to the appellate court, where the court declined to protect the woman’s privacy. Instead, it found that the photographs were “powerfully relevant” because photographs on social media can portray a person’s daily life better than many other sources. However, relevance alone is not enough to permit attorneys to demand this type of information; the Florida Constitution protects your right to privacy. Therefore, the court noted, to have that right, there must be “a legitimate expectation of privacy.” The court held that when you post a photograph on social networking sites, you don’t have “any right of privacy, regardless of any privacy settings that the user may have established.” The court argued that the purpose of sites like Facebook is to share information and that, even if you set up careful privacy settings, the people you did share with could still disseminate the photographs widely.

Notably, however, filing a personal injury case doesn’t give the other side free rein to examine and use everything on your social media profiles. Only relevant photographs and information will be admissible. Further, it remains to be seen how limited the holding will be. In the above case, the photographs were easily obtained, and limited to a two-year scope. Significantly, the corporation’s attorneys already had some evidence that her damages weren’t accurate before they started searching. Courts generally frown on baseless “fishing expeditions,” and don’t let attorneys demand large amounts of discovery without some basis. In the end, the court discouraged overbroad requests without time limitations, such as postings, statuses, and videos. This means that not all demands to see your data will be permitted.

Contact Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney Scott Newmark for advice on protecting your privacy while still seeking the justice and compensation you deserve.

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