Social Media is now an intrinsic part of our lives to varying degrees, whether through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some other form. We use it to share events that are happening to us in the form of photos, videos or text as well as for social commentary and debate.
What can often be forgotten when sharing information is that even with the tightest privacy controls, your posts may still be seen by people you do not know and this includes insurance companies and defendant solicitors.
Social surveillance by insurers
The purpose of making a personal injury claim and obtaining damages is to put you back into the position (as far as money can) that you would have been in if the accident had not occurred. The compensator, such as an insurance company, will therefore take whatever steps they deem necessary to try to undermine these claims.
Historically, they would instruct private investigators to conduct surveillance on claimants to minimise damages and whilst this is still a weapon in their armoury, Facebook and other social media accounts are becoming a very cheap and effective alternative method of surveillance for insurers whether it is through posts made by a claimant directly or posts or comments made by their family and friends.
The danger is that posts or comments made on social media may be relied upon by the defendant to illustrate that it is inconsistent with the claim being made against them which has the potential consequence of the entire claim being thrown out. An example is a claimant who states that they cannot work but then post pictures of their latest DIY project.
Even if the photo isn’t of you, it can still be used against you. For example if you are claiming a back injury and post a picture of your children ice-skating, which could only be taken by the photographer being on the ice, the suggestion would be that if you took it, your back injury can’t be too bad if you can go ice skating. There are therefore many ways in which posts or photos can affect your claim.
Of course, personal injury claims are not limited to physical injuries or disabilities but also include psychiatric injury. Social media can be problematic in this regard as people generally only share positive news and may even exaggerate such news. A photo showing a smiling, happy claimant can appear to contradict a claim of psychiatric trauma hampering quality of life.
That is not to say that claimants should swear off social media completely. There are many support groups online that can provide guidance and advice and may be the only means of contact with the outside world for those who are seriously injured, particularly in a post-COVID world.
Caution should be exercised and claimants should be advised about the possibility of their social media posts being viewed by insurers in the hopes of finding inconsistencies or discrepancies in their claim.
Staying safe on social media
If you want to post on social media, my advice would be to do the following:-
- Review your online privacy settings.
- Only accept friends or follow requests from people you know personally.
- Do not put anything on social media that you would not want to be seen by an insurance company. This includes mentioning any details of your claim.
- Limit your posts and photos.
- If you aren’t sure whether you should post something then don’t post it!