Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Does this sound familiar? If so, I hope it’s because you watch a lot of shows like Law & Oder on television and not for any other reason. If this doesn’t sound familiar, it is one part of the Miranda warning police must give to criminal suspects before questioning them. How does that apply to you? Well, it can have equally negative consequences in a civil case (insurance claim) also.
To see if you need to read any further, take this short quiz. If you answer “yes” to any one of these questions, you’d better read it all.
1. Do you have your own LinkedIn page?
2. Do you post any comments in a LinkedIn group related to your profession?
3. Do you have a Facebook page or have you “liked” any pages related to your profession?
4. Do you post any comments on Facebook related to your profession?
5. Do you have a Twitter account?
6. Do you ever tweet about your profession?
7. Do you ever exchange emails about your profession with any friends?
If you answered “yes” even once, then please read the rest of this article. It might save you a lot of time and money someday.
As a former litigator who has had some experience with E&O claims, I can say without any doubt that one of the first things I would do today if I were preparing to depose a real estate professional (agent, appraiser, broker, inspector, title agent, etc.) about their knowledge and expertise would be to do a social media search. Why? So I can find out what they have ever said about any subject related to their profession which I might be able to use to impeach or discredit them when they testify they followed proper standards and protocols. Confused? Let’s use a home inspector as an example. Here is how the Q&A might go (I’ll skip the part about name, age, address, etc.).
Q: Are you an experienced and competent home inspector?
A: Yes, I am.
Q: Do you always follow the appropriate standards of practice when conducting an inspection?
A: Yes, of course.
Q: Then, can you explain why you posted this comment on LinkedIn just 3 months ago? “The standards of practice from my state are worthless and any inspector who adheres to them will never make any money. To make any money, you have to ignore the standards and do what the client wants.”
A. (Sound of choking noises from attorney for inspector and from inspector followed by request to suspend the deposition and discuss settlement.)
I think you get the idea. The moral of the story is the next time you are about to post something online, think about how it will sound a year from now if you find yourself defending a claim under your E&O policy. It may be funny now, but will it be so funny then? After all, anything you say can and will be used against you when you least expect it.