Social Media and the Courtroom

Social media is a significant part of many people’s lives. Social media is used to keep up with friends and family. It has also progressed to the point where it is a news source, a way to find job opportunities, and a means to earn income. Social media has a substantial daily impact on the lives of many individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions. In fact, social media often has a considerable effect on court cases and legal claims. However, you may not realize that social media may impact lawsuits both inside and outside of the courtroom.

Social Media Can Affect Lawsuit Outcomes

Jurors in a trial are instructed to refrain from watching or reading any news about the lawsuit.

Courtroom officials want jurors to make their decisions based solely on the evidence that is presented in the trial. Specific pieces of evidence are often kept from trial proceedings because they would create bias or otherwise sway the outcome of a case. However, jurors who use social media might come across posts or news articles that discuss the case. This is especially true in high-profile cases. Unfortunately, even reading a simple headline may cause a juror to think differently about a case.

Social media may also impact the accused (defendant) and other relevant witnesses during lawsuit proceedings. A person’s credibility may be cast into doubt with a single social media post. Everything that defendants have ever posted on social media may come back to haunt them during the case. Consider a murder trial, for instance. It might affect the court case adversely if a defendant posts negative, derogatory, or threatening statements about the victim on social media. Or, in the case of a car accident, a jury might be affected if the accident victim posts pictures of him or herself enjoying the slopes on a ski vacation, appearing unaffected by the supposed injuries sustained in an accident. It is not uncommon for tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, Snapchat pictures, and other social media posts to be printed out and displayed on a large screen for a judge and jury to view during a trial.

Social Media Outside the Courtroom

Social media may also impact a case outside the courtroom. Once a case ensues, the parties involved typically begin a discovery phase where they exchange evidence. Certain types of evidence are requested during discovery. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Pictures and photographs
  • Cell phone records
  • Medical records
  • Driving records

Depending on the nature of the case, social media posts may also be requested. Text messages, emails, and other forms of communication may be reviewed as well. These items may be used to either build a claim for the plaintiff or become an asset for the defense.

In conclusion, social media can be fun and entertaining. However, be mindful that social media posts are largely visible or accessible to anyone and everyone. Social media enthusiasts may want to proceed with caution, especially if they are embroiled in a personal injury lawsuit. If you need advice from a personal injury attorney, like a personal injury lawyer in Melbourne, FL, or wish to discuss your situation, contact a lawyer in your local area and schedule a consultation.

Thanks to the Law Offices of Arcadier, Biggie, & Wood, PLLC for their insight into how social media can be used as proof in a lawsuit.