Social networks have recently seen an influx of individuals heading online to share photos and experiences with friends and family, but many don’t often realise that just because your account is set to private, it doesn’t mean other people can’t see the content you post, particularly insurance companies and the lawyers they instruct.
Research has revealed that the average person spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing social networks each day accounting for 28% of overall internet usage, but little do they know that the information they share could be used to investigate fraud, or have a direct impact on ongoing compensation claims and criminal court cases if it is not thought through.
An essential element to any case is to prove that a person is guilty of the accused crime, or in the case of personal injury, prove that the person was actually injured and the defendant is liable. Therefore any elements that reduce or eliminate the case will be put forward as evidence and more recently, these have been uncovered on social media.
There is an old saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words although photographs can sometimes be misleading and the distortion it creates can have devastating effects. The judge in a case may jump to an unfair conclusion, even if the victim only wants to put a brave face on for the sake of the friends and family they are connected with online.
The first case in which the claimant ended up in jail for fraud discovered by Facebook was in 2011, when Graham Loveday was caught posting photos from an Italian road trip when in the midst of a £1m compensation bid as a result of a collision which he claimed had left him so badly injured, the only thing he could drive was his wheelchair.
Personal injury cases such as these focus on the extent of the victim’s pain and suffering as a result of the injuries they have sustained. If a person claims that they cannot drive and then there is a Facebook post that clearly contradicts it, it is likely this evidence can be used in court despite it being an invasion of privacy.
Fraud cases brought forward by social media have increased in recent years. One Newcastle fraudster claimed compensation for breaking his ankle on an unrepaired drain during heavy flooding just last year. It was only when a YouTube video was shared online that it was discovered he had jumped into floodwater and emerged with a broken ankle and ruptured tendons.
As he pleaded guilty to fraud, the judge noted that social media was becoming a “great tool” for prosecutors as people “can’t resist” sharing their lives online.
Implications from social media can be avoided though, the best way is to tell nothing but the truth from the beginning of any claim or case, and not to exaggerate any statement. It is often best to steer clear of social media, or use it sparingly when a case is going through the courts.
Beecham Peacock specialise in all areas of criminal and personal injury law, if you require advise call us on 0191 232 3048 today.