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Personal Injury Arising From Social Media

In our technologically advancing world it is no secret that we are surrounded by instant access to information and each other. How many cell phones do you come across that don’t have access to the internet these days? Very few. So much of our daily communication occurs online that many don’t think twice about the material they are posting. This material, even when removed by the individual, is never really gone from the internet. This is also true of traditional forms of social media such as print newspapers and magazines.

The chart below by www.statisticbrain.com shows that as of last month social networks are well on their way to impacting almost every single human on Earth. Included in these statistics is the dark side of that impact which is also becoming prevalent.

 

Social media provides an opportunity for people to connect with friends and family, find former classmates they haven’t seen in years, and allows professionals to grow their network. However, with all of this access and information available at your fingertips it opens the door to risk. Do you know if you have an exposure?

Have you ever written a letter to the editor or made a public comment on news article? Ever written a blog? Ever “liked” a comment on Facebook? If you have done any of these you have opened yourself up to potential libel and slander. It is important to operate with care and discretion when participating in social media, including keeping a close eye on what children are doing. Most libel and slander lawsuits today are connected to social media. The following are some personal injury claim examples:

  •  Reymundo and Shellie Esquivel allege their 16-year-old daughter's high school classmates created a disturbing Instagram page, including pictures of topless underage females and bottomless underage males. The high school students were sued for libel and their parents for negligence
  • A principal in South Richmond, Virginia, sued four parents for writing what she called a "scathing" letter about her that was published in a newspaper. The suit alleged the four conspired to "purposefully and without lawful justification maliciously injure the plaintiff in her profession and reputation."

  • High school baseball coach Michael Lee sued a parent for, among other things, libel and slander. The slander cause of action was based on the allegation that the parent made statements to at least eight people that Lee was a bad coach, unethical, and had severe anger and emotional problems. In both causes of action, Lee alleged the parents acted with malice and caused him to lose his job.

  • Brian Burke, the former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager, claimed that a number of anonymous commenters posted defamatory statements about him on a message board. According to published reports, Burke received the court’s approval to serve more than a dozen people using the message board he was allegedly defamed on.

How can you minimize your exposure besides turning off all connection to the outside world? The answer is owning a personal umbrella insurance policy. Umbrella policies are a broad form of protection that provides coverage beyond the homeowner and/or auto policy to add an extra layer of liability coverage for incidents. This protection provides coverage for allegations of slander, libel, defamation of character, invasion of privacy, even false arrest. Another added benefit to an umbrella policy is that legal defense fees are provided but not limited by the benefit amount of the policy. If you’d like to be confident that you and your family are protected from all worst-case scenarios, give our office a call today.