The internet and social media has undoubtedly made the world a far smaller and more accessible place. Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Instagram to name a few, have enabled us to stay connected and share information with people all over the world, however information shared on these sites is often available for public viewing and people we don’t even know can see information we put out there.
The photos of you looking slightly worse for wear after a few drinks at the weekend shared on Facebook could be viewed by people you don’t know, worse still, by employers, clients and business contacts; being a potential source of embarrassment and damage to your reputation.
Insurance companies are increasing their use of social media to check the truthfulness and to ‘validate’ claims made. If you have made a claim on your household or car insurance, or if you have made a claim for personal injury or holiday illness, the chances are that your name will have been researched to see if there is any information available in the public domain which proves or disproves your case.
There have been many examples of high profile cases of this in action within the media recently, for example, David Hammond alleged his fiancée’s engagement ring worth £20,000 had been stolen whilst on holiday in Brazil causing Mr Hammond to claim on his insurance. A photograph on Mr Hammond`s fiancée’s’ Facebook page later showed the ring was still in her possession.
Insurance companies are increasing their use of social media to check the truthfulness and to ‘validate’ claims made.
Holiday companies also routinely search for evidence to disprove claims bought for cases of illness as a result of poor food/pool hygiene on package holidays. So, if there are photos of you riding a camel or comments on Facebook referring to ‘one too many Sangria’s’, don’t expect the tour operator to accept your claim that your holiday was ruined by the gastro bug allegedly picked up from the buffet.
In relation to road traffic accidents, social media is used to investigate claims which are suspected to have been deliberately set up or ‘staged’ to prove the alleged fault, non–fault party and/or witnesses knew each other before the accident. This is easily done by searching through peoples ‘friends’ or ‘contacts’ if a social profile is open for public viewing.
Whilst genuinely, in some instances people may know each other before the accident, or indeed meet at the scene of an accident, the credibility of the parties and genuineness of the accident will be called into question if any prior knowledge is denied.
In addition to social media, insurance fraud investigators can also pinpoint the location of your phone at the time of the accident to prove you were at the scene. They can also apply to the court for disclosure of phone records.
In one high profile ‘cash for crash’ case in Manchester where a driver deliberately ‘slammed on’ their brakes in front of a bus, phone records uncovered that bus inspector Asan Akram and the driver of the vehicle Tariq Iqbal had called each other over 100 times in the days leading up to the accident. Both drivers were convicted in November 2014 and given custodial sentences.
Insurance fraud investigators can also pinpoint the location of your phone at the time of the accident to prove you were at the scene.
Public record searches can be carried out to verify the occupant history of the address, again, to try and establish prior knowledge between the parties before the accident. Credit searches can also be carried out to establish the claimant’s financial status to give a motive to make an exaggerated or fictitious claim. This was a factor considered in the bus claim referred to above. Both Iqbal and Akram were in severe debt and were motivated to set up the claim for financial gain.
Insurance companies also routinely use surveillance to ‘spy’ on people who are pursuing high value claims for ‘life changing’ injuries. In instances where the claimant is suspected of exaggerating the effects the injury has on their ability to work or carry out day-to-day tasks, insurance companies will use footage to disprove allegations that they are unable to walk unaided or require high levels of help (or care) from family members. In the case of Summers V Fairclough Home Limited, Mr Summers alleged that he was unable to stand for longer than 10-15 minutes and could not work. The insurers were able to obtain footage of the claimant working, which disproved his high value case for loss of income and care allegedly required from his wife.
The only completely safe way to make sure your personal data is not viewed is to abstain from social media completely, however in this day and age this is a rather extreme measure. You are able to restrict access to your profile on sites such as Facebook by editing privacy settings.
In conclusion, if you choose to pursue a claim for financial loss or injury, your credibility is paramount to the success of your claim. If you are genuine, don’t lie, attempt to mislead the court or exaggerate your claim. That way there’s no chance of being caught out!
About the Author:
Adele is a RTA Litigation Fee Earner at Bott and Co and has over 15 years of experience in dealing with a whole range of personal injury claims including road traffic accidents, occupiers and public liability claims, phantom passengers and credit hire.
In her spare time Adele enjoys live music, festivals, travel and scuba-diving and tries to combine these where possible.
Adele is currently an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.