Social media and proceeding with caution in Insurance Cases

PUBLISHED 24 Apr 2018

In this digital media age there is an increasing use of social media applications such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube accounts.

The current trend is to document places you have been, things you have done, people you have been with and your interests. Many of these posts are accessible by members of the public even if your profile has been made private. Such information that may be publicly available include photographs, posts, events and “likes”.

The use of these social media accounts are a useful tool for defendants and insurers to investigate persons who are injured and making a claim for compensation. Insurers use the information to investigate a claimant’s capacity both physically and mentally. Photographs or posts are increasingly used by defendants as evidence to support their claim that an injured person may be exaggerating or being fraudulent in the claim.

Social media posts can be distorted by insurers for their own benefit. Claimants ought to tread carefully in the use of their social media accounts particularly when bringing a claim for compensation.

In a case called Digby v Compass Institute Inc [2015] QSC 308,  the court made an order for the plaintiff to accept a friend request from the insurer which enabled the insurer to view their social media posts. In that case the plaintiff made a claim that she was socially isolated. The insurer wanted to use evidence on the plaintiff’s Facebook to prove otherwise.

In a similar case where the plaintiff made a claim that she was suffering from a major depressive disorder, the defendant sought an order for the plaintiff’s Facebook profile to be disclosed. The plaintiff’s Facebook profile revealed evidence of the plaintiff being social and interacting with friends. In accordance with the orders made in the case of Digby, the judge in this case ordered the plaintiff to accept a friend request for the defendant so as to allow her profile to be disclosed as evidence in the case.

This evidence assisted the defendant’s case which was also used to discredit the plaintiff showing that she had been deliberately dishonest.

Claimants are urged to take caution when posting accounts of their personal and social life through social media and take into consideration what a defendant may infer from the picture you have posted, comment you have made, or information you have disclosed.

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