Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and similar online destinations have become a way for people of all ages to connect with friends and loved ones. While social media pages might once have been a communication tool primarily used by teenagers, people from all age groups now spend a fair amount of time using this mode of communication to inform and to keep informed about the activities and lives of family, friends, and colleagues. Given the widespread use of this method of communicating with others, there is a common tendency of policyholders to post information potentially relevant to their insurance claims. Many people never anticipate that rather innocuous photos, status updates, or posts will be used by an insurance company to deny, delay, or minimize the payout on a claim.
The practice of scrutinizing social media websites has become a standard practice for insurance companies when investigating insurance claims. Insurance investigators troll these online pages in a variety of ways that include reviewing posted information and pictures as well as engaging anonymous messaging. While many people assume that secured areas of their Facebook page are off limits to nosey insurance companies, judges are increasingly ordering plaintiffs in lawsuits to provide login credentials to insurance carriers. An insured should never assume that information in so-called secured regions of social media pages can be kept from an insurance company when a claim is filed. Some of the ways insurers might use posts on these sites include the following:
- Liability/Fault: When the insurance claim arises out of a car accident or other incident that causes personal injury to a third-party, internet posts might provide ammunition to contest liability. If an insurance company wants to refuse to settle a claim for an accident allegedly caused by its policyholder, the insurance carrier might look for posts about the crash. The injury victim might post information that suggests he or she was speeding, distracted, or otherwise driving negligently. This type of admission could result in the assignment of some fault to the plaintiff, so the value of the claim is reduced or result in a total bar to recovery of the plaintiff depending on the facts and circumstances.
- Violation of Conditions: All insurance policies include conditions and exemptions that can constitute a basis for denial of a claim. Most homeowner policies expressly require an insured to perform maintenance and take measures to mitigate damages following a disaster. Failure to comply with these requirements can pose a complete bar to recovery. Pictures taken of your home and posted on Facebook, for example, might reveal openings in the roof that are not covered with plastic to protect the inside of the dwelling and furnishings from ongoing storms. Similarly, photos or pipes with rust might be used to deny a claim for a leak caused by a burst pipe because of ordinary wear and tear when necessary maintenance is not performed.
- Mitigation of Damages: There are many ways that carriers might utilize information or pictures on a social network to diminish the value of a claim. In the case of a motor vehicle accident, the insured might upload a picture while he or she is participating in an activity inconsistent with claimed injuries. A photo of the insured engaging in the limbo at a wedding could be highly embarrassing for a plaintiff with a debilitating neck or spine injury. Similarly, the insurance company could rely on photos that reveal disrepair and unperformed maintenance in response to a homeowner’s claim. Posted complaints about marital discord can even be used by an insurer to challenge losses based on loss of consortium (spousal love, affection, and support).
If you have questions about an insurance claim, you are invited to contact our law firm to speak to an experienced Miami insurance claims attorney. My law firm specializes in representing policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. Click here to read about some of our case results. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.