Million-dollar mistake: Why Waiting to Discover Online Evidence Could End up Costing you the Case

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Are you preparing for litigation, and expect that you’ll need to collect defensible online media evidence? Then the time to request a report is now, while the information may still be accessed online. Every hour you wait provides more time for your subject to prevent you from collecting the web evidence you need to make your case and defend against false claims.

It’s true! Even the smallest delay could cost you and your client the case, which could lead to major financial loss — or worse, depending on the claim. Despite the very real risks of waiting, we find that, in some cases, clients order a report after the litigation process is already underway. That’s worse than unfortunate, because by then they’ve already potentially lost their argument. Why? Because during the litigation process legal counsel on the other side may advise the person to remove online evidence, including posts, comments, photos, and more on social media.

Yes, that’s allowed and is not considered destroying evidence. We often find that subjects will try to remove, alter, or delete items, or reset privacy settings to social media pages once they’ve become involved in litigation. We have been involved in many cases in which we collected social media evidence, which was compiled and archived into a report, only to find that the online evidence was removed less than 24 hours later.

And once social media evidence is gone, it’s really gone. While it is possible to retrieve some web evidence — for example, by looking into archived web pages and collecting third party citations — social media evidence is harder to retrieve, and may sometimes even be lost for good.

In this way, the world of social media investigations and reporting is just like anything else. You’ve heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? The same is true when it comes to the collection of online evidence. Taking precautions and doing your homework ahead of time will save you trouble in the long run.

It’s very important you not let this happen to in your case. Social media and online evidence are often the difference between proving the truth, and paying out millions. Think that’s an exaggeration? You can read a case study about the use of social media evidence in a personal injury lawsuit here.

In this case, we were able to demonstrate using social media and online evidence that the plaintiff’s claims of debilitating injury were not only untrue, but that she had been actively enjoying activities that she’d claimed were out of reach. Her defense witnesses, also shown in the social media posts we collected, were completely discredited. Our work ultimately saved the client from having to pay a $1 million settlement on a false claim.

How to use social media and online evidence reporting in your litigation process

Instead of waiting, we recommend that you order social media reports in a consistent and systematic way. Using best practices for submitting a report request and getting us involved early in the process ensures that our analysts have the best possible opportunity to find, compile, and archive all relevant online evidence.

That practice can save you at trial, but also on future social media reports. We can’t always guarantee what you’ll find in the way of online evidence, but we can guarantee you won’t find what you’re looking for if you wait too long.

What information do we need when submitting a request for a deep report? Please be sure to provide as much information as is available to you: the subject’s full name, including any known nicknames; complete information about where the person lives; the birthday or age range of the person, to help the analyst find the right subject for the report; a phone number and/or email address if you have one, again to help pinpoint the right person; and additional information about education and employment history if you have it.

We also recommend that you let us know why you need the report in the scope section, as it can help our analysts to target their search and find the most valuable information for your case. For example, we can’t know to look for evidence that someone is enjoying active vacations, when they’ve claimed disability and injury, unless you tell us the basics about what you need.

Keep in mind, a Deep Report (as in the case study above) is often critical to prevent false claims of injury, in cases such as:

Employment Litigation
•Employer Defense
•Wrongful Termination
•Workers Compensation
•Fraud
•Defamation
Intellectual Property
•Patent research
•Copyright Infringement
Due Diligence
•Acquisition
•Mergers
•Corporate Client Profile
•Opposition Record
Trial Support
•Jury Selection
•Jury Monitoring
Class Action Suits
•Client Intake

In all of these cases, the timing of the report request is critical. You’ll want to be sure to provide our analysts with date ranges along with the information outlined above. But just as important is requesting making your request of a report in a timely manner, with all of the information our analysts will need to conduct the report without delay, so that online and social media evidence is preserved.

Because if you’re failing to plan, you really are planning to fail — and that could really end up costing you.