If you are pursuing a claim against the at-fault party, after being injured in a motor vehicle or other accident, it is more important than ever to be aware of what you are posting on social media and how you are behaving online.
For decades, insurers have been relying on private investigators to gather surveillance that demonstrates that the injured person can do some of the activities he or she claims they cannot do, such as gardening, driving, or lifting heavy objects. Often the surveillance shows nothing inconsistent with what the injured person said, so it is never used, or is completely ineffective.
Increasingly, with the advent of the internet and social media, insurers no longer have to hire their own investigators to gather the same information at lesser cost. Many injured accident victims keep active social media accounts, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr which include photographs of daily activities and special events such as weddings and vacations. Insurance companies often do not take into consideration that social media is simply a snapshot in time and does not fully explain the circumstances of a person’s life. Hence, if you are in the process of filing a claim, you will want to do all you can to protect your image and pursue full compensation.
When and How Can Insurers Access Your Social Media Accounts?
There are three ways insurers can access your social media accounts. The first and most obvious is by accessing your public accounts with a basic Google search. If you do not want the insurance company to be able to see your postings, you should double check your privacy settings and consider making your account inactive or not posting during the course of the lawsuit.
The second way that insurers may access your social media information is by creating fake accounts and asking to “follow” or “friend” you to see posts that are semi-public – that you show some people, but may not be accessible through a simple Google search.
Finally, if your claim progresses, the insurer may ask for social media account information or photographs from those accounts as an undertaking. If the insurer’s counsel can establish that information is relevant to the claim then it must be provided to the insurance company and their lawyer.
While social media in personal injury claims is relatively new in Ontario, the record is decidedly mixed in terms of how much weight judges will put on social media evidence in personal injury claims.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Privacy?
There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from insurers and prevent them from accessing your social media accounts in the course of your personal injury claim.
The most basic step you can take is to increase your privacy settings and be careful about who you accept as a friend or follower. This is the most common way that insurers will try to gain access to social media accounts. Double check your privacy settings on another computer or cell phone to ensure that they are not publicly accessible and be wary of any requests from people you do not know in real life.
However, even with increased privacy settings, the insurer is entitled to access your account’s contents if they can show it is relevant. While this often happens later in the process, it is important to be aware of it. To avoid embarrassing posts being exposed later in your case, be careful about what you post. Ask yourself if you would be worried if the post was on the front page of the newspaper or handed over to the insurer and if you would be, you might be better off not posting it.
If you are concerned about what an insurer may be able to access, you may want to consider disconnecting altogether until your claim is over. When you meet with a personal injury lawyer at Will Davidson LLP, we will often recommend this approach and provide you with guidance on all other aspects of your case.
Contact Us at Will Davidson LLP – Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Brampton, Oakville, Mississauga & Burlington
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, there are many aspects of the case to consider. An experienced personal injury lawyer serving Brampton, Oakville and surrounding areas can guide you through the process and provide advice on your case. Our car accident injury lawyers offer free, no-obligation consultations. To learn more, contact us at 1-866-503-8757 today.