Fear is Hurting Veterans' Chances of Employment

Employers’ Fears of PTSD Are Costing Veterans Civilian Jobs

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As someone who represents Veterans, this topic makes me really frustrated.

According to a newly released survey, military veterans feel that they are facing discrimination at civilian job interviews – largely the result of employers who are apprehensive about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Indeed, of the veterans surveyed, one-in-ten have had interviews at which a potential employer raised concerns about them having mental illnesses as a result of their military service.

Seriously? What employer thinks it’s just totally okay to ask a Veteran about his or her PTSD?

“It’s absolutely wrong that veterans should be asked about it and also we need to correct this misperception that PTSD is an issue that is a barrier to employment, because I don’t think it is, as long as the individual is being assisted,” says Stuart Tootal, a former colonel who commanded 3 Para in Helmand during 2006.

However, even veterans who are receiving treatment for PTSD still face employment challenges – and this is where it gets even more frustrating.

Shaun Kettner, a marine veteran living with PTSD, was recently fired from his job at L&S Electric for bringing his service dog to work with him. According to Kettner, his Dutch shepherd named Sig has been a lifesaver, helping him focus when the stress becomes too great. But in March, the manufacturing and motor repair company placed Kettner on unpaid leave, saying that he had failed to complete the paperwork necessary to bring Sig to work. Kettner says the VA had refused to sign the paperwork over concerns that some questions asked violated HIPAA laws. While battling both the VA and his employer, Kettner received a letter saying that his job had been officially terminated.

You honestly cannot make stuff like this up.

What saddens me about these stories is that employers are missing out: Veterans possess many skills that are of great benefit to civilian employers. These include the ability to work in a team, the ability to work under pressure, adaptability, and leadership. However, many of these skills are overlooked by employers who are fearful of the mental health fallout from serving in the military, limiting veterans’ career opportunities when they return from service.

If this story sounds familiar to you, please contact our legal team here at Levine-Piro Law.

Service-connected compensation may be available to you if you suffer from a mental health condition due to or aggravated by your time in service. In addition, if that condition is interfering with your ability to work, you may be due additional benefits from the VA. Moreover, the VA offers retraining and education programs that can help Veterans rejoin the workforce after military service. Getting service-connected is the first step towards qualifying for some of these types of programs.

Our attorneys are passionate about making sure that Veterans receive the full compensation they deserve. We are especially adept at filing and litigating complex mental health claims related to military service. We also specialize in employment litigation and employment discrimination cases for both Veterans and non-Veterans. Contact us at (978) 637-2048 or office@levinepirolaw.com.

What Uber’s $100 Million Class-Action Settlement Actually Means

Uber MoroccoOn April 21 of this year, Uber reached a settlement with the 385,000 drivers listed on the class-action suits filed against them. The suits, filed in California and Massachusetts, focused on whether Uber drivers are independent contractors, as previously listed, or if they should be classified as employees. The question of whether workers are contractors or employees centers largely on how much control the company exerts over them.[1] If the drivers were to be classified as employees, it would mean that Uber would have to pay approximately 30 percent higher labor costs, including reimbursement of business expenses, the employer share of Social Security and Medicare, unemployment insurance, workers compensation premiums, liability for the negligent acts of their drivers, and health care and other benefits.[2] And while Uber drivers argue that they’re entitled to the benefits of employees, and Uber spokesman was quick to point out that there are downsides to being classified as employees, saying “As employees, drivers would have set shifts, earn a fixed hourly wage and lose the ability to drive with other ride-sharing apps.”[3]

In the settlement, Uber agreed to pay $84 million to the 385,000 drivers, as well as an additional $16 million should the company go public. The money is to be distributed in part based on how many miles drivers travelled, which state they drove in, and how many drivers claim their share of the payout. The attorney for the plaintiffs, Shannon Liss-Riordan, expects the claim rate to be 50 percent, according to a court filing she wrote last week. In California, individual drivers will receive anywhere from $24 to $8,000. The settlement money will be far lower in Massachusetts, as class members in California have been allotted about 80 percent of the payout.[4] About a quarter of the settlement will go to the lawyers who argued on behalf of the Uber drivers.[5]

In return for the payout, the drivers in the class-action suit will not pursue their claim to be employees. This prevents the drivers from receiving worker protections. However, Uber did make several policy concessions, the most important of which being that drivers will have access to more information about the rating system used to evaluate their performance and that drivers can now go through a process to appeal deactivation based on low ratings. Ultimately, despite the potentially $100 million dollar price tag that Uber paid to settle, the company is the clear winner, because it still gets to call its drivers independent contractors.[6]

Despite Uber’s big win in this case, it appears that this issue is not settled just yet. The settlement in no way precludes drivers in states outside of Massachusetts and California from suing Uber for the same exact thing. In fact, less than two weeks after Uber settled the class-action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts, lawyers in Florida and Illinois filed similar class-action lawsuits on behalf of Uber drivers who say Uber violated the Fair Labor Standard Act. They seek to recover drivers’ unpaid overtime wages and work-related expenses.[7]

As companies that operate similarly to Uber continue to arise, the muddy distinction between independent contractors and employees becomes evermore important. One possible remedy, suggested by Seth Harris, a former U.S. deputy secretary of labor, and Princeton economist Alan Kreuger in a coauthored policy paper entitled “A Proposal for Modernizing Labor Laws for 21st Century Work: The ‘Independent Worker,’” is to create a new category of workers, called “independent workers.” Under this proposal, independent workers would qualify for many, although not all, of the benefits and protections that employees receive, including the freedom to organize and collectively bargain, as well as civil rights protections. They would not, however, qualify for unemployment insurance benefits or hours-based benefits, such as overtime compensation or minimum wage requirements. The proposal seeks to structure benefits to make the independent workers status neutral when compared with employee status, with the ultimate goal of reducing legal uncertainty and legal costs that currently beset many independent worker relationships.[8] “One of the challenges we face is that public policy hasn’t kept up with changes in the workforce over the last 35 years,” says Harris. “Right now, we have an opportunity to develop the public infrastructure while the gig economy is still developing.”[9]

But while this proposal has excited many who closely followed the Uber lawsuit, it has yet to be drafted into any sort of legislation. And until this proposal or some other reform becomes reality, Uber, and other “gig economy” companies can count on more class-actions, more payouts, and more contention.

FOOTNOTES

[1] “Uber’s Class-action Settlement with Drivers Means Almost Nothing Is Changing.” Recode. N.p., 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 05 May 2016.

[2] Haden, Jeff. “The $100 Million Uber Settlement: Will the On-Demand Economy Change the Nature of Employment?” Inc.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2016.

[3] Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, n.d. Web. 05 May 2016.

[4] “Uber’s Class-action Settlement with Drivers Means Almost Nothing Is Changing.” Recode. N.p., 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 05 May 2016.

[5] Lopez, Linette. “There Was One Winner in the $100 Million Uber Settlement.”Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 04 May 2016. Web. 05 May 2016.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, n.d. Web. 05 May 2016.

[8] Harris, Seth D., and Alan B. Krueger. “A Proposal for Modernizing Labor Laws for Twenty-First Century Work: The “Independent Worker”.” The Hamilton Project. N.p., 07 Dec. 2015. Web. 9 May 2016.

[9] Gurrieri, Vin. “Uber Cases Could Spur New Employee Classification – Law360.” Uber Cases Could Spur New Employee Classification – Law360. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2016.

Why You Need an Estate Plan

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Regardless of age, circumstance, or personal finances, everyone should have an estate plan. This article explains the importance of having an estate plan and breaks down the three core pieces that an estate plan contains: a healthcare proxy (someone who can make important medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so yourself), a durable power of attorney (a document that allows a person of your choice to make decisions regarding your finances), and the last will and testament (a document that stipulates how your assets should be divided amongst beneficiaries). Become aware of some of the falsehoods surrounding estate plans and learn more about why estate planning is essential! Check out what our friends at Lakeside Financial Planning had to say about the need for an estate plan in their recent newsletter.

http://lakesidefinancialplan.com/why-you-need-an-estate-plan/

When Incapacity Strikes: Helping Mom and Dad Make Decisions: Free Seminar and Discussion on April 27, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.

Edith is an eighty-three year old widowed woman with three adult children. Edith had always been very independent and active. Although none of her children reside near her, they called and took turns visiting her. During one of these visits, Edith’s son noticed that she seemed distracted and forgetful and that her normally pristine home was in disarray. When Edith’s daughter visited next, she noticed that these problems had worsened and that the clutter in the home included piles of unopened bills. One morning, her daughter found that Edith had gone. While it was not unusual for her to drive to the nearby coffee shop, she failed to return. Police in a nearby city later found Edith, confused and disoriented, when she attempted to park on the sidewalk. She had sustained minor injuries after hitting a pole. After a short hospital stay, Edith’s treatment team determined that it was not safe for her to return home due to her inability to care for herself. Edith denied her illness and insisted on returning home alone. Edith’s children now disagree about the best plan for her future. Could she live alone with home health care services or does she need a higher level of care in a skilled nursing home? Would an assisted living facility with a memory-care unit be appropriate? Who can legally make the decision for her to move to a facility if she refuses to go? How will she afford the care she needs and who has the authority to access her assets to pay for her care?

Above is a fictionalized account of a common situation in which the need to obtain a guardianship and/or conservatorship of an elder often arises. Usually, it can be a difficult time as both the elder and the family are under a great deal of stress. The family may find it hard to understand and accept the changes that have occurred in the elder’s life and may also be under pressure to make important care decisions quickly. The elder may feel frightened due to unfamiliar surroundings and abrupt changes in routine, in addition to the fear that he or she has lost control over decision-making. Sometimes, family disagreement over the elder’s future adds to the emotional stress of the situation.

In an ideal situation, the elder has previously executed both a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy nominating agents to make his or her financial and health care decisions in the event of incapacity. However, in order to be valid, these documents must be executed while the elder still has the capacity to do so. Once a physician has deemed the elder to be incapacitated, it is too late to do so. At that point, it is necessary to petition the Probate Court to obtain a guardianship and/or conservatorship of the elder.

A family member may petition the Probate Court to appoint him/her or another family member or friend to serve as either the guardian or conservator. Guardianship provides the authority to make personal and routine medical decisions for the elder. If there are extraordinary medical decisions to be made, such as for treatment with antipsychotic medication or the need to obtain a Do Not Resuscitate order, those must be specifically requested on the petition. Likewise, if there is a need for the elder to be admitted to a skilled nursing facility or a locked memory-care unit, or for the authority to access bank accounts in order to submit a MassHealth application (often required for skilled nursing home admission), the petitioner must specifically make those requests on the petition.

Conservatorship provides the authority to make decisions regarding the elder’s finances, including payment of bills and the investment and management of funds. If there is estate planning to be done, such as the creation of a pooled trust, the conservator will need to file a separate petition to set aside funds and create the trust.

Both a guardianship and conservatorship can be obtained relatively quickly if there is an emergency requiring immediate health care and financial decisions to be made. Appointment requires medical paperwork from the elder’s physician certifying his or her diagnosis, prognosis and need for the appointment of a fiduciary. A temporary appointment of a guardian or conservator lasts for ninety days, after which a permanent appointment may be sought.

Both the guardian and the conservator are accountable to the court for the decisions that they make. All decision must be made in the best interest of the elder. A guardian must file a yearly report with the Probate Court describing the elder’s personal and medical needs and how those needs have been met. A conservator must file a yearly plan with the court disclosing how the elder’s income will be used to meet his or her needs. In addition, the conservator must file an initial Inventory (snapshot of the elder’s assets at the time the initial appointment is made) and a yearly Account (listing the elder’s income and expenses for the year as well as the balance at year’s end). A conservator also must file a bond with the Court at the time of his/her appointment, either with personal or corporate sureties (requiring a yearly premium).

Often, the question arises as to who will serve as the guardian and conservator. Both jobs are time-consuming, requiring frequent contact with medical providers and close attention to bank accounts, investment accounts and payment of bills. The job may fall to the adult child who resides closest to the elder or who has been the “responsible one.” Sometimes, particularly in families with a history of discord, there can be strong disagreements over who should be appointed. If these disagreements become contentious, the Probate Court may appoint a neutral fiduciary, often an attorney with extensive experience in this area of law.

If you have any questions regarding this process, give Levine-Piro, P.C. a call 978-637-2048 to schedule a time to meet with one of our attorneys.

Emoji Fever Takes Over the Judicial System

emojibrainLast month, we brought to you a story about how social media can negatively affect your case.

During our last piece, we touched on how social media could wreck a personal injury case – for instance if someone is claiming emotional distress but then posting about happy events in their lives, or even posting happy emojis.

It looks like this trend is catching on even in the criminal law realm. For instance, in Virginia, a 12-year old student is being prosecuted for using a specific set of emojis. The student used the gun, knife and bomb emojis on her Instagram account. The school is charging her with threatening her school because of these messages.

She is not the only person for whom emojis have caused trouble. A Michigan man used a policeman emoji and a gun emoji directed toward the officer; the grand jury there had to determine if that was a real threat, or just someone having a little fun.

With cases on both the civil and criminal sides dealing with how emojis and other social media posts might reflect an individual’s mental or emotional state, that begs the question, should this even be considered as evidence and even allowed into cases as such?

If you have a personal injury, employment law or other case that involves social media, Levine-Piro Law can help. Call us at 978-637-2048 or e-mail office@levinepirolaw.com to talk to one of our attorneys to set up a consultation.

To learn more about emojis in criminal law cases, you can read the original article here.

No More Tears - of Talc? Jury Hits J&J with Massive Punitive Damages Verdict

baby powderEveryone is familiar with the Johnson and Johnson brand. It is advertised everywhere – a familiar and trusted brand, associated especially with children. Who doesn’t know the slogan “No More Tears.”

However, recently J&J has come under fire in a Missouri lawsuit, in which a jury awarded $72 million in damages to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer – allegedly because of using Johnson’s talc-based baby and body powders.

Leaving aside the science – how did the jury come up with such a large number? Well it starts with the award of $10 million in compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are meant to “compensate” an injured party or their family for things they have actually lost – such as perhaps medical bills, lost wages, or “loss of consortium,” which is basically the legal name for the loss you experience when you no longer have a very close loved one in your life anymore.

The jury then took the amount of damages, and awarded the decedent’s family an additional $62 million in punitive damages.

Punitive damages are designed to “punish” a defendant and are considered to be an extraordinary award. Statistics show they are only awarded in a small percentage of cases, and when they are awarded, they are usually reasonably low awards. It’s just that when you hear about them, they’re huge awards, like the award in this case.

Here in Massachusetts, punitive damages can only be awarded if allowed by statute such as in wrongful death, employee discrimination or medical malpractice cases. In medical malpractice cases, there is a cap of $500,000 unless it is proven that the injury was catastrophic.

Case law here in the Commonwealth has established that punitive damages are only available for outrageous or evil conduct or where a defendant exhibited reckless indifference to a person’s well-being. Additionally, punitive damages can only be awarded in addition to compensatory damages.

So, how much in punitive damages can be awarded? In theory at least, it’s based on a multiplier using the level of negligence to determine the number; then the compensatory damages are multiplied by that number to determine the amount of punitive damages in a particular case.

Going back to Missouri, the family was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages. The punitive award was based on the evidence proving that the famous company Johnson & Johnson had lied about the health risks of their talc-based products for over forty years, and, in addition, had falsified information to pass safety regulations governing those products.

For more information about the Johnson case, see the original article here.

If you feel you have been injured, contact Levine-Piro Law at 978-637-2048 to schedule a consultation or e-mail office@levinepirolaw.com.

To Compete or Not To Compete: Week 2 in Levine-Piro Law's Series on Employment Agreements

the-strategy-1080534_1920Just the title “non-compete” makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it? To go all Fox newsy, there’s something almost “un-American” about the word. Competition is in our blood. It’s part of what makes this country tick. But stay with me and I’ll show you how it – kind of sort of – makes sense.

A non-compete agreement (a.k.a. non-competition agreement or covenant not to compete) prohibits you from going to work for a competitor of your employer within a specified time period and within a specified geographic region. Non-competes are typically upheld by courts if reasonable in length and geographic scope.

First, a little history, should you ever wind up on Jeopardy. Laws allowing non-competes trace their origins all the way back to 1711, to a British court case called Mitchel v. Reynolds, a fight between two bakers. I personally would have liked to have tasted the fruits of that fight. Anyway, Reynolds rented his bakeshop to Mitchel; Reynolds also promised that he would not open another bakery in the same town. See that – that’s a non-competition agreement.

Guess what happened? You got it. Reynolds, that backstabbing baker, went back on his word. Mitchel sued. The Court upheld their agreement and found that the agreement not to compete was a “reasonable” restraint on trade necessary for Mitchel’s business to thrive. If Reynolds were allowed to open up a competing bakeshop, all the effort Mitchel had put into developing customers in the town, all the goodwill he had developed, would be damages.

So you can see where this leads. Non-competes help employers – from their perspective, they are “pro-competition agreements” that allow them to better compete in the market.

When you’re hired, the company presumably will spend time and money training you over the next several years. You will also likely become privy to trade secrets and other forms of intellectual property (don’t worry – we’ll cover IP agreements in another post). It’s understandable that they would want to put some limitations on your ability to benefit from that by picking up and walking down the street to the nearest competitor and then spilling the bean about how they do business. Like the baker brouhaha, it’s a “reasonable restraint on trade.”

Which brings us to the basic standard – in Massachusetts at least. In the Commonwealth, non-competes are generally upheld by the courts if they are reasonable in length and geographic scope. This will depend on the circumstances of the case – for example, what industry do you work in? A hair salon’s non-compete agreement will be judged a lot differently than a tech company’s, for example.

Let’s figure out why. In this example, it has to do with the geographic scope component. A tech company that, say, manufacturers a robotic product that is put on the market nationally could very well get away with a non-compete clause that bars employees from working for competitors throughout the United States. Yes – you could actually be prohibited from finding another job with a competitor anywhere in the United States. But a hair salon could not get away with this. A reasonable geographic scope for a hair salon would be 10 miles or so because that one hair salon’s reach would only be around that large. Any trade secrets that salon may have developed would not extend much farther than that.

Remember, too, that if you are barred from working for a “competitor,” the definition of what a competitor is may be flexible. In the robotics example just mentioned, a court may construe the industry in question very narrowly. Obviously, the court cannot expect you to simply not work. A narrow reading of what industry the non-compete applies to would allow you to obtain a job in a slightly different industry where your skills could be useful, but where you would not be putting any of your former employer’s trade secrets at risk.

If you have signed a non-compete and have questions about it, I recommend consulting with an attorney. There is a lot of litigation in this area of the law; in fact, litigation over non-competes has risen about 60% in the last decade or so.

Even lawyers sue about non-competes. For example, a journalist out of New York who had been working for legal newswire Law360 was hauled to court when Law360 sued to enforce their non-compete agreement after the reporter left for Reuters. The non-compete specified that following termination the employee would be unable to work in legal news for one year. This case is still pending; we’ll keep you updated on how it turns out.

Once again, I have to give a shout out to small businesses. Along the lines of what I said last week, I would advise a small business to use a non-compete clause, but I would also advise a small business to be flexible. This means consulting with an attorney and coming up with a reasonable non-compete agreement that’s tailored to the specific industry at issue. The point, let’s remember, is not to rake the former employee through the coals – the point of all of this is to protect the trade secrets a business has worked hard to create.

And on the other side, once again, I would suggest that if you sign on to work for a big national corporation, you will almost definitely have to sign a non-compete, and it will almost definitely be broader than it needs to be – but not so broad a court would strike it down.

If you have an issue related to a non-compete agreement or any other employment law issue, give us a call at 978-637-2048 or e-mail at office@levinepirolaw.com.

The Digital Death Knell of Court Reporting

court repWith the age of technology comes new challenges for an old system that has, with some exceptions, of course, proven tried and true. Along the way, many paper-based professions are starting to become digital. This includes attorneys as well as the court system.

With the introduction of online case management programs, it has become increasingly easy to keep digital records of client files. Many firms now keep minimal, if any, client files on paper. Incoming and outgoing mail is scanned, and paper copies are shredded. Correspondence between attorneys is primarily done via e-mail.

The court system too has also been digitalized. Most filing is done electronically, especially in the federal court system.

But now, the digital age is expanding to affect court reporters. This means that instead of a court reporter taking down what is said during a trial or hearing, the court will install microphones and recording equipment to the stands and jury boxes to have the hearings recorded. A transcriber who was not present in the courtroom will then process the recordings after the fact.

In Massachusetts, these systems are already in place for most civil matters in Superior Court, but the Commonwealth is set to spend $5 million to upgrade the entire system, including expanding it to the criminal side. This would include installing the digital reporting system in 455 courtrooms in 100 different courthouses.

But this poses some potential problems. The primary concern is how well the microphones will pick up the voices of the attorneys as they move around the courtroom to examine witnesses. Another concern is that it will be difficult for transcribers to distinguish between two lawyers arguing over each other.

And what about the one caveat that no one has managed to figure out? What if the equipment, and the program, just stops working? By the time it would be noticed, valuable testimony might have already been given. This could potentially compromise someone’s case, an especially troubling fact in a criminal case.

Perhaps the next thing they should do is replace lawyers with machines?

Arbitrate. Or Else! The First in Levine-Piro Law’s Series on Employment Agreements

174cb0a476dcf7a4e7e4a9e79c7c5919You’ve just started work at a big-box employer. It’s your first day and you’re given a stack of papers to read through and sign. Chances are you will skip right to the signature page. Don’t do it! It might not be the most scintillating thing you’ll ever read, but take the time to read it before you sign.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll focus on a few of the common provisions in employment agreements, starting today with arbitration clauses, which have been in the news recently.

A few weeks ago, it was revealed that Guitar Center, the largest chain of musical instrument retailers in the world with revenue of over $2 billion, was essentially forcing all of its employees to sign a consent to arbitration mid-employment. If employees declined to sign the arbitration clause, they would be terminated.

By signing an arbitration agreement, an employee basically signs away her ability to go to court over issues that come up in connection with her employment, whether it be wage violations, discrimination, or wrongful termination. Instead, those disputes are heard by an arbitrator, who is supposed to be impartial, like a judge. In actuality, many of the big corporations who use arbitration clauses are able to hand-pick the arbitrators that preside over their disputes, thereby all but ensuring the case will be decided in their favor.

It’s one thing to be presented with an employment agreement containing an arbitration provision at the outset of your employment. At that point, you have a choice whether to sign. You could even try to negotiate it. But to be presented with an arbitration agreement mid-employment and told you will be terminated if you decline to sign it? It doesn’t take a legal genius to see that this might not hold up in court. There is a good argument that an arbitration agreement signed mid-employment under threat of termination was signed under duress, thereby invalidating the agreement. In addition to being potentially unlawful, it’s also downright shady.

The moral of this story, if you ask me, is the importance of small business. At Levine-Piro Law, we routinely advise small businesses in all stages of growth. While we would always advise a small business to use an employment agreement no matter how many employees they have, we would also advise them to be flexible if a particular employee has a concern about one of the provisions in the proposed agreement.

If you are looking for a job, you have a lot of things to consider. Employment with a large national corporation comes with lots of perks, but there are drawbacks, too. You will have no bargaining power when you start in terms of the employment agreement you are asked to sign. You will have to sign it. Your only choice, if you don’t like what you read, is to walk away. If you seek employment with a small business instead, you may have the possibility of negotiating some of the provisions we are going to tell you about over the next few weeks.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet: How Social Media Can Tank Your Case

Social-media rubix cubeImagine you’ve won a settlement in a court case after a protracted and difficult legal battle. Naturally you’re going to want to share the good news with your friends on Facebook!

Not so fast.

Chances are your settlement agreement contains a clause prohibiting you from discussing the details publicly. If you violate that provision by spreading the word on social media, you risk forfeiting your settlement money.

In one instance, a Florida plaintiff won an age discrimination settlement from his former employer – but his daughter’s braggadocious tweet violated the agreement’s confidentiality provisions and cost him the entire $80,000 settlement. He kept the smaller amount of $10,000 owed in back wages, but his loose lips, and his daughter’s loose fingers, cost him bigtime.

This isn’t the only type of problem that social media can cause in court. Even what seems like the most innocent of posts can be used against you.

For instance, in a personal injury case, if you claim to be suffering from whiplash or some physical injury that is greatly affecting you, but then post about going to an amusement park, it could be used against you by savvy defense counsel in court – even if you did nothing but watch the babies in their strollers on the outing.

If you are allege that an incident has caused you emotional distress, but you constantly post happy or excited news, or even use happy “emojis,” a creative defense attorney could easily use this type of information to show that you are not being truthful about the true nature of your emotional well-being.

This complicates cases and may make settling your case more difficult.

Beware: A common mistake people make is believing that changing privacy settings will stop posts from being used in court. This is not always true. Facebook privacy settings are complicated. In addition, if you are “tagged” in a friend’s post, you will show up in their news feed.

If you have a case pending, you should discuss social media use with your attorney. Especially if your claim is for personal injury, your attorney will want you to limit your use of social media. If he or she has no idea what you’re talking about, get a new attorney. Many attorneys now have clients sign a “social media warning,” acknowledging that they have discussed these issues at the outset of representation. If you are asked to sign one of these, this isn’t a sign that you have met a slimy lawyer – it’s a sign that you have met a lawyer who is well-versed in current trends.

If you have a personal injury, employment law, or other case, Levine-Piro Law can help – and we will be sure to advise you on how best to navigate social media and protect yourself from your posts being used against you in court. Give us a call at 978-637-2048 or e-mail office@levinepirolaw.com to set up your consultation.