It seems that most people use social media to some extent. The majority share the events that are happening to them, whether in text, video or photo form. You can see how those who are injured might use social media to share their experiences of bringing a claim with others.
Our Personal Injury Department has seen a significant rise in insurance companies using social media to research and refute claims. Some insurers are hiring digital experts to trawl Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and elsewhere for posts and information about Claimants and are also making detailed Google searches about them.
I have seen a few witness statements, produced by these digital experts, which explain in detail the searches they have undertaken, usually with screenshots attached to their statements to try to undermine a claim.
Graham Loveday Social media posts
Some of you may remember Graham Loveday who was jailed for nine months in 2011 after insurers discovered his Facebook posts about driving to Italy on holiday with his caravan whilst he was claiming that he could only travel in a wheelchair as part of a Personal Injury Claim valued at £1 million.
What is worrying though is the way that genuine Claimants are being portrayed as dishonest, because their social media posts are misrepresented by insurers.
To give an example, one client I have acted for was given the full digital background-check by a well-known insurer. They submitted a 30 page statement from their expert, which contained all manner of information they had gleaned from the internet. My client was very upset. The client was doing her best to present a ‘brave face’ to the world, despite her significant difficulties due to the accident-related injuries. Her posts, which were all positive and generally harmless, were used to try and suggest she was lying about the seriousness of her injuries.
What many posters seem not to understand is that social media posts are a public record. It follows that it is open to insurers to continue to use social media, blogs and internet searches to attempt to undermine personal injury claimants. Private messages cannot be relied upon, but just about everything else can!
The best advice is to think carefully before you post. If you aren’t sure, then don’t post! You should also speak to friends and family about not posting about your accident, as you can almost be sure that they will be seen by insurers. Make sure you don’t accept friend requests from anyone who you don’t know; even a person with the strongest privacy settings could come unstuck in this way.
Despite these new challenges to Claimants, it will be up to the Court to differentiate between what people post online and what is actually happening in ‘the real world’. I strongly believe that Judges will be able to tell the difference.