If you're suing someone for a personal injury, you can bet that there's someone sneaking more than a peek at your social media pages: the defendant's attorney. Your attorney may have warned you to keep from posting personal information and photos, or even to stay off the sites altogether, and to switch your privacy settings around so that only close friends and family can see your posts. Should you just go ahead and delete the accounts? Wouldn't it be safer? Absolutely not, and you need to understand why.
You Can't Prove A Negative Without It
You don't want to delete your social media pages because you don't want to try to convince a judge that there wasn't anything on them that was detrimental to your case. It's not likely to go well.
If the defendant's attorney can prove to the satisfaction of the court that there was something in those social media pages that was potentially relevant to your lawsuit, the court isn't going to concern itself with why you deleted the pages, or what was really in them.
Instead, the court will most likely assume that what was in them was relevant, and that it would have damaged your case. Furthermore, recent decisions indicate that the courts are also likely to assume that the spoilation of the evidence was done on purpose or in a negligent way (as opposed to happening in some unavoidable accident).
As long as the pages are in existence, there exists the possibility that the courts will require you to hand over access to your social media pages. However, there might very well be nothing in them to find, if you've paid attention to your personal injury attorney's advice and been judicious about what you posted.
If you destroy the pages, however, you run a much bigger risk: alienating a judge or jury and all but convincing them that you had something in there that you wanted desperately to hide so that it didn't ruin your case.
You May Never Have To Turn Over Access
There's a possibility that you may never have to grant access to your social media pages at all, depending on the circumstances of your case.
Discovery, the process of gathering information that's relevant to the lawsuit, is a vital part of the legal process. Electronic discovery, or the gathering of information that's contained online, in text, in email, or through other electronic sources, is still in rapid evolution, but it's become fairly standard for lawyers on all sides of the legal fences to scour social media sites looking for evidence to make or break a lawsuit.
In general, if your social media pages are publicly visible, the courts have held that what you put on your pages isn't considered private, and if it contradicts something that you're alleging as part of your personal injury, it can be used against you.
However, at least one court has stated that defendants in personal injury claims shouldn't be allowed to go browsing through the parts of someone's social media accounts that aren't publicly visible on "fishing expeditions."
In other words, if you're alleging that your back injury has kept you in the house and unable to enjoy much of anything, unless the defense can point to at least something - a post talking about how you really enjoyed shopping with your aunt, or a picture of you cheering in the stands at the Homecoming game at your son's school - that was made publicly visible after your accident, they shouldn't get the right to rummage through your whole account.
In practical terms, what all this means is that from the moment that you're aware that you're going to bring a lawsuit against someone due to a personal injury, adjust the privacy settings so that only you (or a very few people) can see your pages and then leave them alone until you've discussed the situation further with your attorney. Don't delete your accounts, however, unless your attorney okays it first.