Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Social media and accident cases

Lately, I have witnessed an interesting development: insurance companies are routinely and regularly using injured people's social media to evaluate them as claimants.

I recently settled a case at a mediation. The mediator informed me afterwards that I had done quite well, considering that the insurance company had evaluated my client before mediation as being only a 'D' caliber plaintiff. I asked how in the world had they made that judgment, since my client was very presentable, credible, and in my opinion a very good person for personal injury lawsuit purposes.

His response was that they had found her on Facebook, and that there were several risqué photos of her on that site. The insurance company may have planned on somehow using these photos in the litigation, and trying to make them admissible at trial. But at a minimum, the client's posted information gave the company a way to evaluate my client's life story beyond just the information that the attorney provides them.

Most insurance companies rely to some extent on computers to value each claim. Some programs use a factor within the data that the adjuster enters that includes a subjective rating of a claimant's credibility, likeability, and overall grade as a potential plaintiff should the case go to court. This rating can directly change the value that the insurance company will pay to settle your case.

Later, when I looked at my client's Facebook page, I saw what they meant. My client was clearly trying to put out a good vibe directed toward their friends and others in their age group. However, this may not have appealed to a typically older jury panel that we typically see. Had the case not settled, I would have fought the insurance company and likely would have kept anything not directly relevant to our case out of evidence.

Yet on many cases, when we have someone who has been forced to reduce their activities, they may like to post their accomplishments and fun activities online. These posts may appear to be inconsistent with their injuries, and could be admissible in cross examination.

So a couple words of advice.... Be very careful what you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites. Insurance companies, and others, are routinely looking, and if they see anything that may make you look bad, they will use it to reduce their valuation of your claim. Your online persona may negatively influence how insurance companies grade you as a claimant, and cost you a considerable amount of money.