Social Media and Witness Credibility
There is a trend and almost a default setting for insurers to make serious allegations of fraud/dishonesty at the outset of a person injury claim without any proper evidence to dissuade claimants in the hope that claimants will be too frightened to pursue their claims thereby making huge savings on compensation pay-outs.
Too often genuine claimants will not pursue their claims, crippled by fear and the potential costs consequences they attend court, only to be found fundamentally dishonest. Such a finding could potentially lead to a claimant not been in a financial position to pay those costs and in those circumstances the claimant could face financial ruin, such as a charging order against their property and/or face the possibility of losing their job.
It should be noted that even if the claimant has legal expenses cover or an After the Event (ATE) policy, if there is a finding of fundamental dishonesty then the insurers will void the policy and there is no obligation for them to make any payment towards the claimant’s costs. This is understandably frightening and is why insurers use this stance to scare legitimate claimants from pursuing their claims.
At Lyons Davidson we have a specialist team who investigate and deal with claims where fraud allegations have been raised, such as low velocity impact, causation, phantom passengers etc.
In view of the nature of the allegations and potential costs implications to the claimant, it is paramount that the client is provided with good advice and support. Often, when a client is notified of the allegations they are very distressed and we therefore look to provide some reassurance through clear and well-supported advice and take every step to ensure a successful outcome where possible.
The following (but not limited) would be circumstances where a court might be persuaded by a Defendant of dishonesty; inconsistencies in the claimant’s evidence, little-to-no damage to the claimant’s vehicle, no medical treatment sought , social media posts of the claimant doing strenuous activities etc. In determining whether a claimant is dishonest, the Court must have clear evidence of dishonesty. Given the costs ramifications, the courts are generally reluctant to make such findings, unless there is sound evidence.
A Claimant’s social media accounts (e.g. Facebook) may be looked at by the third party insurers in the hope that the Claimant may have posted something on or after the date of their accident, which conflicts with information they later provide about the impact of their injuries on their day to day life. A good example of this is a Claimant who posts lots of pictures of themselves doing strenuous activities, such as hiking, dancing and running, but when they attend their medical examinations with the medico-legal expert, they report being incapacitated by their injuries. Certainly the social media evidence in these circumstances would severely damage the credibility of the Claimant and their claim and more often than not, serious consideration must be given to abandon the claim.
At the outset of a claim we discuss with the claimant their social media accounts and what posts they have posted which might reflect negatively on their credibility. This could be anything from hiking up a mountain after the accident and or offensive posts about controversial topics.
Should allegations of dishonesty be brought by the third party, the following steps would typically be taken. Having secured all the evidence and vetted the crediability of the client, and having presented this evidence to the third party, we would invite the third party to withdraw their allegations. A majority of cases are often settled at this stage, without the need for litigation/court proceedings.
For more information about cases where an insurer is questioning the validity of your personal injury claim please contact Genevieve Cunningham on 0113 368 7872 or email [email protected]
Posted on May 7th, 2020 by Lyons Davidson