As I sit here preparing for trial, I have the unfortunate experience of the insurance company lawyer sending me pictures of my client riding a rollercoaster, while my client is claiming a serious neck injury. How did they get this piece of evidence to hurt our case? My client willingly gave it to them. How? By posting it for the world to see on Facebook. Fortunately, the picture was a picture taken before my client was injured in a wreck, and which she published for her family and friends to see after her wreck occurred. Whew! In other cases, these photos could have done some real serious damage.
THEY Are Watching YOU!
Insurance companies love to find ways to NOT pay you. It is a form of art they continually hone and improve upon. They employ people and companies whose only job is to collect (or “mine”) information about YOU from social media. Once litigation commences, insurance companies demand access to information about you, and they do not care about your consent. The first thing the insurance lawyers will do in “discovery” is ask for your Facebook Log in information. If you don’t provide it, they will seek a court Order to get this information—even if you have always had your privacy settings as private as possible. They want to question your on-line habits, personal messages and who you are sending them to, and what is being discussed that may be even remotely relevant to your case. This is a relatively new area of the law, and court cases have gone both ways on including and excluding data received and used from social media.
Here are 5 simple things you can do to protect yourself from these Vultures from the insurance company mining your social media:
- Don’t share things about your wreck or your pain. It is wise to limit your information on social media in general whenever you have a personal injury claim. You will be tempted to tweet about your frustration with the insurance company, or how badly you are hurting, but things like this seldom help your case. Most of the time, they will be used to hurt you. Particularly hurtful are photos showing you doing some activity that is questionably outside of your physical restrictions provided or expected by your doctor. Even casual photos with you sitting on the beach and simply smiling will be used against you as a snapshot that all is great in your world and taken out of context. Even if you are in pain and exhausted, this photo will be used to make you out to be a fraud.
- Restrict your Privacy settings to Friends ONLY. Even with the highest privacy settings on social media, you are still susceptible to data mining, as some mining sites obtain your data via your friends, and friends of friends.
- Know what you are tagged in. You need to monitor not only your posts, but posts from friends, and friends of friends. If you are uncomfortable with the photo or post your tagged in, you need to remove it, as it will likely be used in the future.
- Don’t friend anyone you do not know! This is a common tactic that insurance companies use to sneak into your circle of friends and act as a “Trojan Horse” to get complete access to your posts. Don’t do this!
- Think before you Post. Be careful what you are saying. If you use social media to get things off your chest, you may find it used against you, particularly if you are disparaging to a group or class of people. These type of updates are nearly impossible to explain away. If you post a status indicating you have done some type of physical activity that is not consistent with your injury claim, you may have caused irreversible damage to your case outcome.
As your attorney, I cannot tell you to remove postings once you have listed them, as that would be tantamount to destroying evidence. So, the best advice is to never post anything remotely harmful to begin with! I have seen nearly every trick in the book.
If you want to be EXTRA SAFE, you may wish to temporarily deactivate your Facebook account, and here is how:
Step 1 – Left click the drop down menu to the right of “HOME.” Select “Account Settings.”
Step 2 – Left click “Security” from left menu.
Step 3 – Left click “Deactivate your account.”
Step 4 – Select a “Reason for Leaving.” Most people select “This is temporary. I’ll be back.”
Step 5 – Left click “CONFIRM” button (This step is not pictured).
I recognize that asking you to limit your social networking is a great inconvenience. It is one of those areas where the plaintiff is victimized again by the same defendant. First they cause the car accident and injury you, and then the insurance company injures you again by engaging in this type of behavior. Read more on how insurance companies use social media against you.
I share this with you so that you can avoid mistakes that I simply cannot fix. These tactics are used by the insurance companies more and more. So....