Anyone who’s seen film noir classic Double Indemnity knows insurance investigators are sharp. A Danish woman recently found this out the hard way. Since 2008, she’d been receiving yearly $30,000 payments from her insurance company for a whiplash injury, until it was revealed her claims were fraudulent. Her use of a fitness app proved her to be far less injured than she claimed, prompting the insurance company to slash her payments. Research into her other social media postings further bolstered their case against her. In essence, by uploading this information herself, the woman gave the insurance company all the material they needed; they just had to put the pieces together.
Stories like this (and the recent Facebook privacy scandal) should make you wary about what you post online. In this case, the woman was misleading her insurance company, but there are other ways our social media usage can be used against us or cause unforeseen ramifications. At Bellah Perez, PLLC, we want our clients to be aware of the ways social media use impacts legal issues. These include:
- Divorce: Lawyers will look at your online activity to determine your financial situation, whether you’re hiding assets, and your suitability for child custody.
- Estate Planning: Inclusion of online account information is crucial when planning your estate, to ensure social media profiles can be closed and online accounts can be accessed after death.
- Personal Injury: In contentious insurance cases, even small online comments and app data can be used as fodder to reduce compensation or deny benefits.
- Bankruptcy: Much like divorce, your social media use will be scrutinized to determine if your claims of financial insolvency are true.
The Danish woman’s case also highlights that “social media” extends beyond Facebook posts and Instagram stories. In 2014, a Calgary law firm set a precedent by using Fitbit data in a personal injury case to back up a woman’s claims, the opposite result of the Danish case. Similar apps tracking fitness, shopping lists, or vacation photos can all potentially be used to demonstrate health and financial status in legal battles, for or against you. This doesn’t mean you should abandon modern technology and go off the grid. Just be mindful of the information you’re willingly giving away with each post.
In the meantime, the legal system will adapt to the new angles social media introduces, and Bellah Perez, PLLC will remain committed to updating our clients along the way. We will advise you on app activity to limit during your divorce, how to give your loved ones access to your Bitcoin or Twitter account should you pass away, and will even wield social media data in your defense. Contact Bellah Perez, PLLC, with any questions: (602) 252-9937.
Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.