Social Media: How Your Posts and Pics Can Kill a Claim
Yes, the railroads can obtain court orders to force you to turn over your social media website postings and photos in the course of pursuing a FELA claim against them.
The right of privacy only extends so far and when you post online there is a presumption you have chosen to make public on the world wide web, what you thought were “private” postings to your friends. Courts have ruled that you gave up any privacy when you decided to post your comments and pictures online, essentially a public space for all to view. The old saying that a “picture is worth a thousand words” is true when you post a picture of the big buck you just shot while you said you were off injured, or when you took the family to Hawaii or Disneyland when you claimed you could not travel in a car or take trips.
Before all the explosion of social media, the RR’s would have to engage in expensive surveillance to try to catch you doing something inconsistent or compromising your claim. Now the RR’s either access your accounts through a “friend” or get the court to order production of your accounts. In many cases, it does not matter what you have posted before your on-duty injury, but postings after an injury can be far more damaging.
We simply recommend that if you are injured, you mothball and archive all the accounts.
This includes your spouse or significant other who might still think it is fun to post stuff about you and the family. But what these posts and pictures are really doing is giving a roadmap as to your daily activities, thoughts about the future, or worse than you hope the FELA claims pay you a huge sum, so you can relax and take it easy.
This all sounds unlikely, but the RR’s have discovered a new weapon to use against you and your FELA claim, and that weapon is the very content you post online. Photos and seemingly innocent chat can be very problematic when presenting a large claim for personal injury. We tell our clients to shut all social media down, archive it, and wait until the suit or claim is resolved before starting in again.