If you've followed the updates about the Ahmaud Arbery killing trial, you'll see that social media affected this case from the initial traumatic viral video to the recent jury selection. Our Marketing Director, Renee Cooper covers those details and explains how else social media engagement can affect a potential personal injury trial.
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Thanks for tuning in to for For Justice's Sake, a podcast hosted by the Dixon Firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Yes, we did change the name of the podcast, but you're in the right place for the same great legal advice and information. My name is Renee Cooper, the Marketing Director at the Dixon Firm. And this month I'm going solo leading a discussion on how social media can affect a lawsuit. Today's 15-second shout-out goes to the City of South Fulton, Sandtown Pub on Wheels, and everyone we met at October's Trunk or Treat. We loved seeing you guys, talking to everybody. We look forward to the next event that we can attend. And we still have some bags and some mugs still available for people to give out when we see you next. Many people are already aware of the impact social media can have on relationships, careers, even on politics. But knowing how your online engagement can affect a potential lawsuit may surprise you. Social media posts may be used as evidence to disprove an injury claim, discredit a witness or disqualify a juror. On the other hand, images and videos shared from social platforms have been influential in cases with a global spotlight and in rare cases, as acting as an alibi for a suspect. We're highlighting some recent and historic examples to help describe the varying influence social media can have on lawsuits. So today's episode is called "Can a social media post affect the lawsuit?" First, a little bit of backstory. The trial of the men who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020 has been underway since the start of November of this year in Brunswick, Georgia, and made headlines with a jury selection was completed. 11 of the 12 jury members selected were white and one was black. Even after the judge admitted that there had appears to be quote unquote, intentional discrimination in the panel, he also said he didn't have the ability to change the jury racial makeup because defense attorneys gave non racial reasons for striking potential black jurors. According to the defense lawyer many of the black jury candidates had already either seen the tragic video of Michael's killing arbory or made mention of the incident on their social media accounts. Given the global Black Lives Matter movement and protests related to not only Arbery, but George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks death--all within the first half of 2020--it would be hard to find anybody who didn't at least react to the news online or any additional news stories related to these killings. Even if they didn't watch the original viral video of Arbery's death. I know for sure that I didn't want the video, but I know I shared either the news or my reaction to it on Facebook. What's happening in this case further proves why it's hard for black people to have confidence in the legal system. In our first podcast episode, "Juneteenth and Justice" attorney Rod Dixon talks about how the 2020 protests affected him and what it means to recognize justice in the African American community. So if you can go back and listen to that if you get a chance. So even further backstory in 2014, the case of Bland v. Roberts, employees of a Sheriff's department were fired for liking and opposing politicians content on Facebook. The initial trial ruled in favor of the Sheriff stating that liking something on social media did not amount to protected First Amendment right of speech. However, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision indicating that clicking Like on Facebook basically equates to a person saying "I like this" or "I support this." And so likes equals speech and are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment that may or may not give you a feeling of confidence on how you engage on social media going forward. And while your social media engagement is protected by freedom of speech, it can still result in consequences from your employer, the community, or as many saw in the previous years, relationships and friends and family. Let's shift gears to see how we could ultimately affect a personal injury case. When we accept new clients, we go through a discovery period where the client will answer a list of questions related to their incident. One question that gets most hesitation is 'Do you have any active social media or video platform accounts?" It's important because both your lawyer--which potentially it could be us, ours, our lawyers--and the defense lawyer will be looking to make sure the injury suffering or hardship that you're claiming is not contrary to imagery you're presenting on social media after incident. For example, if you're in an accident and claim serious, debilitating injuries, you aren't posting photos out dancing, skating or taking gym selfies. Another example is claiming that an incident caused you to be out of work or lose wages then making videos about large purchases, vacations, or sometimes even talking about how you're working from home, which is still working, or how much you hate your job which proves that you are working. Yes, all those can be used by the defense attorney to disprove your claim, and it's important for your lawyer to review them first, so you're not missing out on time, or award money. It's also very important to mention that if you've made posts like this after your incident, do not delete the post! That can be seen as removing evidence causing even more problems. In 2013, the case of Lester v. Allied Concrete, a cement truck crossed over the center line and hit a married couples car, killing the wife. The court tried to significantly reduce the surviving husband's award by over $4 million. After finding out how his attorney told him to quote unquote, "clean up" his social account. The images Lester deleted, didn't even have much to show evidence contrary to his claim, or even related to the accident at all. But defense attorneys found a way to make this the focus when it didn't necessarily have to be. Even the lawyer had to pay $700,000 in fines. The Supreme Court later awarded a larger amount to the widower of the accident, however, it took much more time and effort than necessary. These are just a few examples as to why sharing your social media account with your lawyer is so important. It's probably a good idea after you file a claim to just limit your social media activity until the case is completed. We know that's hard, but it's helpful. You may be wondering how social media can be good from a legal standpoint. Even if watching or sharing a traumatic video on social media could affect your ability to be a juror, the imagery can be used in court as compelling emotional evidence for those who are on the jury. As Rod mentioned, in the case of the $7 million texting while driving episode, "it's about what your eyes are telling you." Sharing imagery of injustice on social media does cause most people to form opinions immediately, but also brings awareness to such injustices and can push policies and action from the law. Social media can be a great place to stay informed, especially with more digital accounts that highlight hyperlocal, unfiltered news coverage. Shout out to ATL Scoop and Georgia Followers. We're newly on TikTok, and have lready had comments and DMS with very good legal uestions regarding our own cases and current vents. Social is also great for getting details bout new and historic cases. True Crime podcasts nd shows are all the rage right now. However, t's important to respect the privacy of those ho've been involved with traumatic court cases, hether injury or criminal cases. Most case etails are accessible through public records, ews articles and online forums.But those involved ith the case including lawyers, victims and amily members, may either one be legally rohibited from discussing the case post trial or wo could be overcoming some trauma related to the ncident. We actually saw a spike in visitors to ur website and to our YouTube channel last month ue to searches related to a previous sexual ssault client of ours. While we appreciate the raffic and everyone's interest in the outcome of his case, we sometimes have to keep details of he case confidential. That's one reason why when e discuss our past cases, we may omit names and ates to protect our clients and ourselves. So if you actively use social media, we encourage you to use it as a tool for learning seeking justice and supporting your community. We also invite you to follow us at @dixonfirm on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and of course like I mentioned now on TikTok. Tag us with questions or if you see injustice online that you want to ma e us aware of. And if you think you may have a pe sonal injury case, you can always call us di ectly at 888-DIXON-11 or 888-349-6611 for a ca e consultation visit our website at Di onFirm.com/podcast to describe to For Justice's Sa e, and for a monthly newsletter. We give up ates, we give out a $50 restaurant gift card, an we offer more free legal resources like our bl g or other articles. I want to thank you for li tening to this solo version of our podcast ep sode. We do have some really cool features for De ember planned of the rest of our legal team, ou lawyers and our paralegals. So in the me ntime, my name is Renee and thank you for li tening to For Justice's Sake, have a happy Th nksgiving and until next time, stay safe. Bye!