Can a Railroad Employer Use an Injured Workers Social Media in Court?
Railroad carriers can try to decrease the value of an injured worker’s personal injury claim in several ways. One of these ways is to request access to content from an injured worker’s social media accounts (including Facebook and Instagram). The employer usually seeks this this information to look for pictures, videos, or other posts that show a railroad employee exaggerating or lying about an injury.
This post is the first in a two-part series. The remainder of this article will focus on a railroad company using the information on an employee’s social media account. Our second post will focus on other forms of a worker’s digital information.
Legal Issues with Social Media Posts
Courts allow discovery of social media content when a railroad company can show its relevance to a case. “Discovery” is the process of one party to a lawsuit obtaining evidence from the other party. Discovery can refer to documents, images, or recordings.
In order to obtain social media evidence, an attorney must establish the relevance of the content they are seeking. Many times, attorneys for a railroad company will review the employee’s public postings for evidence first. If they find anything of value in public social media postings, it can make it easier for them to convince the court that they are seeking relevant information.
Typically, attorneys seeking social media information may only request what is relevant to the claim or injury that forms the basis of the case. This means they must specifically ask for:
- posts regarding the worker’s claim, or
- video and photographs depicting the injured worker.
What the attorneys are looking for is anything to contradict the injured worker’s claim or story. For example, an employee might say that, because of an injury, they are unable to lift anything more than 10 pounds in weight. But a worker’s credibility may get questioned if an employer can find photos on social media of the employee carrying a 30-pound child.
This example might seem like an unfair invasion of privacy and an intrusion into an injured worker’s personal life. However, railroad carriers are allowed to make discovery requests for all social media posts that show or talk about the employee in physical activity after the time of the accident. This is provided that the employee is claiming they are unable to do that physical activity.
What Does it all Mean for an Injured Worker?
It is common nowadays to share life updates on social media, especially while injured. However, photos or videos from parties, vacations, and other activities can be used against injured workers if it shows them doing more than their doctors allow them to do.
Status updates or other posts discussing the incident that led to an injury or treatment can also be used to dispute the injured worker’s story of what happened. In order to ensure full and fair compensation for injuries, it is best to deactivate, but never delete, social media accounts while a claim is pending.
Contact Rossi Vucinovich for Help
If you sustained a railroad injury, it is likely that your employer will try to obtain information from your social media accounts. To preserve your claim and maximize its value, contact a skilled railroad injury lawyer now. Note that Rossi Vucinovich PC has been helping railroad employees and their families recover from railroad injuries for over 50 years. We’re dedicated to helping injured railroad workers obtain the benefits they need to treat their injuries, pay their bills, and continue supporting their families. Do yourself a favor and contact us today to get the legal help you deserve.