In the event of an auto accident, most insurers recommend filing a police report immediately. After the police file the accident report, you are then urged to file an insurance claim with your insurer. What your insurance company and the police don’t tell you is that you should also make sure your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts do not reveal any erroneous details about the accident. After all, you would not want to have your insurance claim denied because of something stupid you posted on Facebook, would you?
Recently, the use of social media monitoring has exploded in the insurance industry. With more than two billion Facebook users currently documenting their lives for the world to see, insurance claims adjusters view social media as a gold mine for their investigations.
“Checking social media accounts has become one of the first things an insurance company or adjuster will do when you file a claim,” says Frank Darras an attorney from California who specializes in law suits against insurance companies.
Not only do insurance claims adjusters look for proof that your insurance claim isn’t fraudulent, they also might look to see pictures of what your car looked like before the accident, for example. If you were injured during the accident, adjusters might look at your pictures and status updates to see how the accident has affected your life. They could also search social media for potential witnesses to the accident.
Is This Legal?
There are currently no laws or restrictions on an insurance adjuster’s ability to scour social media sites for information to aid their investigation. In the law’s eyes, any information listed on public websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. is fair game. Often times, the first step in a claims investigation is to run a simple Google search on the claimant to reveal all of their social media profiles.
Investigators often find that the information on the social media profiles is set to private (limited visibility) so that only friends of the plaintiff can view it. Some claims adjusters have resorted to “friending” or connecting with the insured in order to view this information. Other claims adjusters, however, have rules of ethics which prevent them from “friending” the people they are investigating in order to gain information.
Whatever situation you’re in, if you find yourself filing an insurance claim after a car accident, it’s best practice to avoid posting about it on social media. It’s even smarter to avoid accepting “friend requests” from strangers. The extra boost in your friend count is not worth it!
Often times, investigators uncover information that is especially damaging to the claimant. Richard Harer, vice-president at California based Specialized Investigations, recalls a time when he was investigated a stolen GPS. After a quick investigation, Harer uncovered that the policyholder was lying. Shortly before filing the claim, he was discovered to have listed his GPS on Craigslist for sale.
Social media, however, doesn’t always tell the whole story. Nathalie Blanchard, took leave from her job at IBM in 2008 because she was struggling with depressing. Because of her condition, she started receiving disability benefits from her insurer. She received the benefits for some time before suddenly, the checks stopped coming.
A representative from the insurance company that was sending Miss Blanchard her payments said that they discovered pictures of Nathalie “frolicking at a beach and hanging out at a pub.” The insurer determined that this “evidence” was enough to prove that her depression was not debilitating enough for her to miss work. Nathalie Blanchard is now suing said company because they did not gather sufficient evidence, did not check with her doctor, and did not even warn her before cutting off payments.
Nathalie’s attorney says that the insurance company assumed from the Facebook pictures that she was a fraud, but didn’t bother to investigate further before cutting off her benefits. He says, “no one puts pictures of themselves crying in a dark room (on FB), even if that’s what they’re doing 18 hours a day.”
While new technology, especially social media, can help immensely when it comes to aiding insurance claims investigations, investigators have to be careful. As you can see, the tools are not always perfect, and can lead to devastating and expensive mistakes. If you are involved in an auto accident, or plan on making any type of insurance claim, for that matter, make sure you comb through your social media profiles with a fine-toothed comb. You never know who could be watching!