Your Lawsuit and Social Media
Social media is such a normal part of our lives that we often post our daily activities without thinking twice. From sharing pictures of our meals, vacations, families and friends to updating our statuses with check-ins and personal tidbits, we seem to be a society obsessed with documenting every moment of every day.
Sharing this information with your followers may seem innocent, but if you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, even the most “harmless” information can potentially damage your claim.
For instance, imagine you were injured in a car accident and you’re suing for compensation. A few days after the accident, you attend a friend’s birthday party and are tagged on Facebook in some party photos. The defense attorneys for the insurance company find the photos and use them as evidence against you. They argue that if you’re at a party, then you must not really be hurt. They can show those photos in court, which can hurt your chances of being fairly compensated – or compensated at all – for your injuries.
What Should I Do/Not Do on Social Media?
- Avoid posting: It’s really simple – avoid posting pictures of yourself and your activities. Put your accounts on hold until your case is closed. The best way to ensure that you don’t post something the insurance company can use against you is to avoid using social media altogether.
- Don’t discuss the accident: If you absolutely must post on social media, don’t share details about the accident or your injuries. Even a small error in the way you phrase something or a timestamp on a photo can create problems. Don’t post pictures of the accident. Don’t share any details of the accident through messages. Don’t comment on the other party or the insurance company. The best advice is to discuss your lawsuit with only your attorney and no one else.
- Check your privacy settings: Make sure your accounts are set to “private” and not to “public.” Make sure that you have to approve any tagged posts or comments. You should also remove yourself from public Google search results on Facebook by unchecking the box under “Public Search Listing.”
- Ask your family and friends to be discreet: Sometimes our families and friends post pictures or “tag” us in events on social media. These posts can also be used by insurance companies and defense attorneys. Remind your family and friends that you’re in a lawsuit, and tell them you don’t want to be included in their social media.
- Don’t accept strange friend requests: As devious as it sounds, insurance company employees have sent requests to injured people to access their private pages. Avoid accepting requests from anyone you don’t know.
Are There Rules About Social Media In Court?
While there are very specific rules about what is admissible as evidence in court, the rules about social media are still evolving. While public posts and public pages are more than likely admissible, rules about private posts and private pages are different. Courts have ruled that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for the content on social media, even if it’s shared with a small, select group. While defense attorneys aren’t likely to get permission to search the entirety of your private social media accounts, they might be granted limited access if they can show how it will lead to admissible evidence.
What Is Wrongful Death?
When a person dies due to the misconduct, negligence, or intentional harm of another person, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil court action requiring grounds (a legally supported reason) for filing.
Wrongful death lawsuits aim to prove that not only did the deceased lose his/her life due to the negligence of another, but also that his/her family members were directly affected emotionally and financially due to the death. Therefore, wrongful death cases will determine the financial compensation the family members should receive.
How Does Someone Prove Wrongful Death?
To be successful in a wrongful death lawsuit, some elements must be proven:
- The person’s death was caused by neglect or wrongful conduct.
- The surviving family members have suffered measurable damages as a result of the death.
If a victim, who would have otherwise been able to file a personal injury claim had he/she survived, dies as a result of the action of another, a “survivorship” claim is appropriate.
Common grounds for wrongful death lawsuits may arise out of a number of circumstances:
- Medical malpractice death
- Vehicle fatalities
- Exposure to toxic/hazardous work conditions
- Death during a supervised activity
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Every state has a wrongful death statute or set of statutes that set the standards for actions against wrongful death. A lawsuit for wrongful death may be brought by a representative of the estate of the deceased, including:
- A spouse
- Parents of minors
- Extended family members, such as grandparents and siblings (in some states)
- Any person named as executor of the estate
What Damages Can Be Awarded?
Once a death has been proven to be the result of a wrongful act, damages can be collected for the following:
- Medical bills incurred prior to death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- The pain and suffering of the decedent prior to death
- Lost wages and expected income
- Mental anguish endured by the survivors
- Loss of inheritance
- Punitive damages intended to punish the offender and discourage similar actions (in some states)
If you believe that may have a wrongful death claim, contact us for a free consultation. We will help you understand your legal rights and determine if you should pursue a lawsuit.
As our country’s population ages, it is inevitable that many will need additional care. While some people may be able to care for elderly family members themselves, others may need to hire home health aides or move loved ones into nursing homes or other assisted living facilities.
While many of these facilities offer quality care to their residents, it is important to be able to recognize signs of negligence and neglect.
According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, “Nursing home neglect is the most common type of elder abuse in nursing facilities, with 95 percent of nursing home residents reporting neglect in the past year.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 500,000 adults over the age of sixty are abused or neglected each year, and it is likely there are many cases that are never reported.
While often discussed under the heading of elder abuse, nursing home neglect presents itself in subtly different ways. Nursing home abuse occurs when a caregiver harms a patient. Nursing home neglect, however, occurs when a caregiver provides substandard care or commits a breach of duty.
Types of Nursing Home Neglect
While nursing home neglect varies based on individual cases, there are four major categories:
- Medical Neglect – when a nursing home fails to appropriately attend to or prevent medical issues of the patients, such as diabetes care, bed sores, infections, mobility, and cognitive disorders
- Neglect of Basic Needs – when a facility fails to ensure that patients have a clean, safe environment, such as appropriate food, water, and shelter
- Neglect of Personal Hygiene – when a nursing home fails to provide satisfactory aid to residents who need assistance with tasks, such as cleaning, bathing, tooth brushing, laundry, and/or other types of hygiene
- Social or Emotional Neglect – when staff members demean patients, such as consistent rejection, abandonment, or verbal abuse
Warning Signs of Nursing Facility Neglect
Because warning signs of neglect can be slight, they can be difficult to identify. At times, depending on the type of negligence, there may be no outward signs of neglect. Often, behavioral changes in patients will be noticed only by those who see their loved ones frequently.
Although neglect can be difficult to identify and prove, these are some of the most common signs:
- Malnutrition, dehydration, and/or sudden weight loss
- Bed sores and/or pressure ulcers
- Falls that result in injury
- Withdrawal from activities/socializing
- Change in hygiene habits or physical appearance
- Hazards such as slippery floors, bad lighting, or unsafe furniture and equipment
What Can I Do?
If you believe your loved one is being neglected or abused, move him/her to a safe environment and call the police or Adult Protective Services. The next step is to consider taking legal action. Nursing home negligence and/or abuse may be seen as a crime and could be grounds for a civil lawsuit.
The facility may be liable if it participated in the following behavior:
- Negligent Medical Treatment – failure to provide correct medication and/or treatment to residents
- Negligent Supervision – failure to properly supervise residents to avoid falls and other accidents
- Negligent Hiring – failure to complete appropriate background checks when hiring employees who have records of abuse or negligence, or the improper training and/or supervision of employees
- Negligent Safety – failure to maintain a safe facility with enforced health and safety practices, such as protection from other residents, prevention from accidents, and maintenance of living conditions
Fields, Dehmlow & Vessels has successfully represented clients who have been harmed in nursing homes and other assisted-living arrangements, and we have extensive knowledge of both state and federal nursing care laws and regulations. Additionally, we work on a contingent fee: there is no fee if there is no recovery. If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of neglect or preventable injuries at a nursing home or long-term care facility, contact us at 740-374-5346. We are here to help.
Preparing for Your First Meeting With Your Personal Injury Lawyer
In a previous article, I discussed the qualities you should look for in a personal injury attorney (trial experience, previous work with personal injury cases, a successful track record, etc). Once you have found the right lawyer, you will meet with him or her.
At the initial meeting, you should provide your attorney with as much evidence and information regarding your case as you can. Properly documenting police reports, medical reports, damage reports, photos, and/or eye-witness accounts allows for a stronger case. Make sure to bring all correspondence from any insurance company. Make sure to bring a copy of the “declarations page” for any insurance policy that you may have had in force. (The “declarations page” shows what types of coverage you had purchased and the amounts of coverage.)
The more documents that you can give your lawyer at the beginning of your case, the faster your lawyer can get your case moving. Ultimately, this will yield a faster, and perhaps larger, settlement.
Slips on Snow or Ice
We typically receive several calls each winter regarding falls on ice or snow. These slips and falls can be serious. I once encountered a case in which a business patron actually had his leg amputated, resulting from complications of a fall on ice.
However, most people misunderstand what obligations property owners have regarding snow and ice. Contrary to popular belief, property owners and business owners generally have no duty to clear snow and ice. (They often mistakenly believe that they do, and accordingly clear the ice and snow.)
In Ohio, snow and ice are considered general hazards of living in the northern parts of the United States. Everyone is supposed to take care to avoid slipping on snow or ice. In most cases, if a business owner fails to shovel the snow or put salt on ice, and you fall, you have no case against the business owner (or homeowner, or whomever). Shoveling snow or removing ice is, legally speaking, merely a courtesy extended to the walking public.
There is one major exception, however. If a property owner creates an unnatural accumulation of snow or ice, then the owner can be liable. For example, a property owner has a gutter that is facing in a direction that causes water to flow over a walking surface. The water freezes and causes a slip hazard. The owner can be liable in that situation.
More complicated are the “snow pile” cases. Store owners with large parking lots plow the snow into large piles. The snow starts to melt, creating new ice. Courts have gone both ways on these cases. Ultimately, whether the ice unnaturally accumulated will be the deciding factor.
If you think that you may have a case arising from a slip on ice, please call us at 740-374-5346.
Why Hire a “Personal Injury” Lawyer for Your Business Case?
Should you consider hiring a “personal injury” lawyer to represent your business in court? Yes.
Years ago, lawyers did not limit their practices to the degree that they do today. There were simply trial lawyers who did everything. Abraham Lincoln routinely would represent individuals and businesses. (And yes, there were personal injury cases in the 1840’s and 50’s.) He was known only as a good courtroom lawyer. This was common even into the 1950’s and 1960’s.
In recent decades, lawyers began to classify themselves as “personal injury” lawyers or “business litigators” or “collection” lawyers or even “antitrust” lawyers. But the pendulum is swinging back. There are a number of us who routinely accept personal injury, medical malpractice, and business cases.
There are advantages to using the plaintiff’s “personal injury” lawyer in your business case.
First, the plaintiff’s injury lawyer is accustomed to taking risk. The vast majority of personal injury lawyers charge a contingent fee, meaning that they are paid a percentage of the recovery. A personal injury lawyer may be more likely to share the risk in your business case.
Second, the plaintiff’s injury lawyer is accustomed to being efficient. Because of the contingent fee, plaintiff’s injury lawyers prefer not to waste time during litigation on things that don’t matter. The result is the reward.
On the other hand, and not to indict all “big firm” business litigators, the “corporate law firm” model inherently does not reward the efficient result. Most medium and large law firms bill by the hour. The more the lawyer does on the case, the more the lawyer earns. Many of these firms have a minimum number of hours that each lawyer must bill per year. As you can surmise, the lawyer has an incentive to “find things to do” on your case: a little more research, another deposition, file another motion. You pay the price.
Finally, the plaintiff’s injury lawyer is often a “trial lawyer.” Not always, but often. “But wait,” you say, “aren’t all litigators ‘trial lawyers’?”
No. They are not. The dirty secret of the litigation world is that many “litigators” have never tried a case in front of a judge or jury. They don’t advertise this. You assume that your surgeon routinely performs surgery. So, you assume that your “litigator” knows his or her way around the courtroom. You would feel deceived if your lawyer, touted as a litigator, has never actually tried a case. But, this is not rare at all. Particularly at the very large “corporate” law firms.
How does this happen? Medium and large firms usually hire their lawyers right out of law school. These lawyers spend years doing research, writing briefs, and other “litigation” support activities for partners in charge of the case. Rarely do these “associates” get to take depositions, go see judges, or handle routine hearings. Never are they trusted to try the case in court. Eventually, after seven to ten years, these new lawyers become partners in the large law firms—still having never tried a case.
Now, these new partners begin to represent businesses as the chief lawyer on the case. They don’t tell their client that they have never tried a case. They create work and bill. They take lengthy depositions (that do not necessarily help their chances at trial). They delegate tasks to younger associates on the case, creating more billable time. And, after a year or two, and hundreds of hours billed, this lawyer softens and begins to tell the client about all the things wrong with the case. The lawyer may even overstate the risks of the case. The lawyer starts to pressure the client to settle. Ultimately, growing weary of the mounting bills, the client settles. Every time.
Will a “trial lawyer” advise you to settle your business case? Yes. And he should—based on the facts. Not based on fear. The “trial lawyer” will tell you the straight facts as early as possible. Ultimately, however, if the facts favor your side, you may still need a judge or jury to get justice. Will you have a lawyer who knows how to do it? Will he know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it? Will he be afraid? Is he willing to put in the real work (not the “make work”) to win at trial?
A good “personal injury” plaintiff’s lawyer will try three or four trials per year. They know the risks and are accustomed to dealing with the risks.
When selecting a lawyer to prosecute your business case, consider hiring the injury lawyer. For whom you consider only a “personal injury lawyer” is in fact often your best “courtroom lawyer.”