The use of social media is growing at a phenomenal rate. LinkedIn, for example, estimates that its membership is increasing at a rate of two new members per second!
People share their lives on social media, including their thoughts, feelings, experiences and photos. While this has led to numerous cases of personal information being exploited for nefarious purposes, the opposite is also true. If you are thinking of committing insurance fraud by submitting a wrongful claim, be very careful what you post on social media.
Let’s say for example that you submit a personal injury claim for a cycling accident. If you were involved in a cycling accident, or any other accident for that matter, it makes sense to share this experience on social media. Using social media while in the midst of the claim process is not advised, as the effects on your personal injury claim can be negative.
When people file a personal injury claim, one of the reasons is because they have suffered physical injuries, such as a broken arm, concussion, chronic pain, soft tissue injury, traumatic brain injury, etc. The claim typically consists of two parts. The first is to be compensated for expenses associated with the injury such as the costs of medical treatment, or staying in a hospital. The second part is normally for noneconomic damages for pain and suffering that occurred as a direct result of the physical injury.
A claimant will usually call upon medical experts to substantiate the physical injuries and the costs incurred as a result. Other witnesses or specialists, often including friends and family, will be called upon to testify to the claimant’s pain and suffering. The job of the person or party against whom the claim is being filed, is to do the opposite — try to present evidence that suggests that damages are not nearly as severe as the claimant is making it out to be. As you can imagine, finding this evidence can be tricky and in some cases nearly impossible. One of the best sources of evidence investigators use nowadays, is social media.
There have in fact been real-life cases where a claimant’s case was disproved by using evidence obtained from Facebook. You can read more about this in Evidence of Life on Facebook, published in Slate.)
If you have filed a claim for injuries in your bicycle accident, and two weeks later, you proudly post pictures of you competing in a cycling race, you’re bound to be in trouble.
The evidence does not even have to be as obvious as what has been described here. Let’s say a claimant makes a claim that they were socially isolated and friendless because of an accident. To counter this, the defense may use something as seemingly innocent as posts on the claimant’s page wishing the claimant a happy birthday. They could then make the claim that if the claimant were socially isolated and friendless, he or she would not receive birthday wishes from so many other users.
This situation might lead people to ask, “Is my social media public record?” The answer is a resounding yes. The language of most state public records laws encompasses social media, and many states have issued specific guidance for preserving social media records.
Posting anything online after an accident may be detrimental to a potential claim, even if you think that what you are posting is harmless, or is not related to your injury at all. If you have been in an accident, it is probably a good idea to suspend all of your social media accounts for a while.