Social Media and Medical Malpractice: Six Tips

Imagine you are a medical malpractice defense lawyer performing some online research concerning a plaintiff in one of your cases. Now, imagine running across this:

  • A Facebook Status update: “I can’t believe how much I drank last night! Remember kids, don’t mix pain pills with alcohol!”
  • A Twitter feed: “We are stuck in the ER because the stupid idiot of a doctor doesn’t know what he is doing. He is such a complete moron. #incompetent”
  • Pictures on Tumblr: “Here are some great pictures of our hike!” (Taken a few days after an injury)

More than one billion people have active Facebook pages. There are more than four billion pictures posted to Instagram, and 500 million people use Twitter. Yelp boasts 78 million users.

The best advice for potential clients who do not currently have a social media presence is that they keep it that way, at least until the case is resolved. However, many of our clients use social media as part of daily life, making a total ban impractical. Here are six suggestions to consider:

  1. Control who can view your social media. Go through your sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and choose the highest possible security settings.  It is a good idea to hide your “friends” lists to anyone who is not your own “friend.”
  2. Do not vent about bad medical care on social media. These days, many people are accustomed to offering real-time reviews of restaurants, hotels, and other experiences.  Similarly, it may be tempting to post your thoughts about a bad health care experience. Unfortunately, these posts and comments can be used against you if you find yourself involved in a medical negligence lawsuit.
  3. Do not talk about your legal matters on social media. This can be difficult when your case is weighing on your mind and you want to share, but it is important to be silent online about your case. 
  4. Use good judgment. Use discretion when posting messages or photographs. If someone tags you on a photograph, consider clicking “remove the tag” if it isn’t a picture you would post yourself. This is a good idea for everyone, regardless of whether you are considering a lawsuit.
  5. Do not “friend” your lawyers (or their staff) while your case is pending. Creating online links between you and your lawyer can create problems. Your attorney will most likely ask about your Facebook page and other social media, but it is better to share this by sitting down together and talking about it than by “friending” your lawyer.
  6. Watch out for moles. Sometimes, people who are investigating a plaintiff will try to “friend” the person on Facebook, connect on LinkedIn, or find other ways to gain access to more information about a plaintiff.  The best thing to do is assume that everyone can see everything on your pages, and post accordingly. However, it also helps to make sure you really know the people who join your social networks. Take a moment to ask yourself, “Who is that person? Do I really want to give him or her access to my information?”

Following these rules eliminates many potential problems, but be sure to talk to your lawyer about your own social media presence. Even if something is a little embarrassing, we always tell clients that we would rather find out now than find out later on in the litigation process.

The medical malpractice lawyers at Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC represent victims of medical negligence by doctors, nurses, technicians, and other medical personnel in Seattle and across Washington.