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Do I have to allow access to my social media during discovery?

If you have been injured in a car accident or through the negligence of another, you probably are not concerned with the legal aspects of bringing a personal injury claim. But sometimes bringing a lawsuit is necessary to assert one's right to compensation. In these instances, you will likely go through a process called discovery.

As a matter of law, both parties have a right to learn as much about the other party and their version of the facts in order to support a legal claim or defense. The extent of discovery can be quite broad. In legalese, discovery involves the finding of any evidence, not privileged, that is relevant to the claims or defenses involved in the suit.

In personal injury cases, this may involve the production and inspection of a person's social media profile. As the use of social media profiles have become mainstream, insurers have found that Facebook, Instagram and other sharing profiles may contain information that may contradict a personal injury plaintiff's claims. But in the scope of discovery for a personal injury claim, is a plaintiff required to provide access to a Facebook page? The question is particularly relevant when a plaintiff has a private page, or has recently reset his or her privacy settings in anticipation of litigation.

Generally speaking, a discovery request for access to social media pages will not be set aside. The very nature of a social media page answers this question, as these pages are set up to share information with the outside world. With that said, there generally is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a social media page.

However, as we alluded to earlier, there are instances where a person establishes a page that is not designed to share information with the public (a private Facebook page). Here, a discovering party may have a difficult time obtaining unfettered access to such a page. Just like a fisherman may not freely travel to parts of a lake identified as private property with "No Trespassing" signs, a discovering party may not have the right to rummage through a private Facebook page without permission.

Further, a court is likely to deny such a request without a showing that the private domain has information that is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

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