Social media has had a transformative impact on how information is shared, however it also poses a significant risk to injured people pursuing compensation claims in NSW. Even if social media profiles are set to private, insurance companies and their investigators can access publicly posted information using open source intelligence tools to challenge the legitimacy of a compensation claim. Once obtained the information may be used to reduce a compensation entitlement or invalidate a claim completely. To minimise the risk of social media, injured people pursuing compensation claims should truthfully and accurately provide information to their insurance company whilst simultaneously limiting commentary, photos and video posts on social media as they may inadvertently contradict aspects of their claim.
The digital age has revolutionised the way we communicate and share information about what is happening in our lives. As a result, more information than ever before is being placed into the public domain for consumption. With this in mind, if you’ve been injured in an accident in NSW and are pursuing a compensation claim, it is important to understand how information posted on social media can be used against you by an insurance company and what you can do to protect yourself
How Can Social Media Content Be Accessed?
Any content placed on a social media platform with a profile set to ‘public’ can be used by an insurance company to verify the legitimacy of a compensation claim. One of the most common misconceptions about social media however is that if your profile is set to ‘private’ it is not publicly accessible. Unfortunately, you are unable to control what your connections do with the content that you post. Screenshots can be taken, content can be downloaded and republished without permission, ultimately making the once ‘private’ content public. Once in the public domain, it may be eligible to be used against you by an insurance company.
Insurance companies typically use claim staff, internal investigation teams or external private investigators to investigate a person pursuing a compensation claim for a range of reasons including, but not limited to:
- General claim due diligence.
- Suspected fraud or illegality.
- Suspected staged accidents.
- Suspected claim collusion.
- Suspected false or misleading statements made about:
- Whether injuries were actually sustained in an accident.
- Whether the severity of injuries sustained in an accident are as severe as alleged.
- Whether the financial losses alleged occurred at all, or are as serious as alleged.
Besides simply using a search engine to search a person’s public profile or going directly to a social media platform, insurance companies and their investigators may utilise a practice called open source intelligence (OSINT) which involves collecting information from social media or other published publicly available sources. One way of doing this is through the use of social media intelligence (SOCMINT) gathering tools and solutions which trawl the internet for data points about an individual, collating it into an easily understood reportable format. This includes video, photo and commentary content but also the time, date and location information associated with the content when posted.
Social Media Content Can Be Used Against You
During your compensation claim, you will be required to provide information about your life before and after the accident to the insurance company in order to establish that you have sustained financial and other losses. You will also need to provide a range of other details about how the accident occurred and the injuries sustained.
Information obtained from social media and other publicly available sources is typically used by an insurance company to:
- Validate other forms of surveillance.
- Contradict statements made in a claim.
- Prove that the accident did not occur as alleged or at all.
- Challenge the history of events given by an injured person.
- Allege fraud or that false and misleading statements have been made.
- Establish that a person was in a particular location at a specific time and date.
- Demonstrate that an injured person has more capacity for work or social activities than alleged.
- Prove that injuries alleged to have occurred in an accident have resolved or that they never occurred in the first place.
The purpose of an insurance company establishing the points above is to verify the legitimacy of a claim, reduce the amount of compensation payable or to defeat a claim entirely.
Minimise the Risk of Social Media on Your Compensation Claim
The best, but most extreme way of mitigating the risk of social media is to close all of your social media accounts and to request that friends and family to not post or comment on anything about you or your accident throughout the duration of your compensation claim. This will not prevent insurance companies or their investigators from accessing past content publicly posted on social media using websites such as Wayback Machine or other OSINT tools, but it does minimise the risk of future content being posted about you, which could be used to compromise your compensation claim.
It is appreciated that there are many circumstances where it is not desirable or possible to close a social media account. This could be simply due to a general refusal to close the account as it is used as a means of communicating with overseas friends and family. It could also be due to the fact that the injured person is a public figure, social media influencer or otherwise reliant on social media as a means of earning an income. Regardless of the situation, there are a number of measures that can be considered to reduce the risk of social media on your compensation claim:
- Ensure that the information provided to the insurance company is truthful and accurate. This way any content posted on social media (video, photos, commentary etc) will be entirely consistent if social media content is accessed.
- Place your social media account onto private (if possible).
- Undertake a review of your friends and connections and remove any who you do not know.
- Do not accept friend or connection requests following the accident from any people you do not know.
- Refrain from discussing your accident, your injuries or their respective impacts on social media.
- Do no post any commentary or photos relating to the accident, your frustration with the insurance company or compensation process in general.
- Request friends and family not to post any information relating to you or your accident. If you identify something that has been posted which causes you concern, request the friend of family member to remove it.
THE KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER
- Insurance companies investigate injured people pursuing compensation claims for a large number of reasons.
- Insurance companies and their investigators can gather information from social media to verify the legitimacy of assertions made in personal injury compensation claims where that material is publicly accessible.
- It is important to be conscious of what is posted on social media following your accident as the information, pictures or video may be misinterpreted, misconstrued or misused potentially impacting your compensation claim.
Advantage Legal’s Principal Solicitors are Accredited Specialists in NSW personal injury law. We offer no-win, no-fee billing and guide you through every step of the compensation claim process including working with treatment and rehabilitation providers to fully understand how your injuries are impacting you. We also pay your upfront claim investigation fees such as specialist medical reports to ensure there is no financial burden on you throughout the progression of your claim, and only seek reimbursement at the successful conclusion of your claim.
If you’ve been injured in a motor accident you can take our FREE online claim assessment. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to speak with a lawyer now, you can click here to book a time to chat with one of our Accredited Specialists.
This article is for educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers should be aware that NSW compensation law changes regularly and that the accuracy of information contained within this article is current as of 1 July 2023. Any person relying on the information contained in this article does so at their own risk.
Advantage Legal would like to acknowledge and thank Periscope Investigations for contributing their real world personal injury insurance claim investigation experience to this article.