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How what you post on social media can impact your claim

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Social media has become engrained in our lives. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat – they’re all great tools to stay in touch with friends and family, share announcements, advertise your business and read or watch the news. But social media can also be your undoing in a personal injury case if you’re not careful.

Insurance surveillance has advanced from the days of private investigators on your tail snapping photos of your every move and following you to medical appointments (though this can still happen). And it’s become increasingly common for insurers to leverage your social media accounts to help their case, particularly if your claim is of significant value.

But to what extent can social media be used against you in an injury claim?

How can social media content impact my personal injury case?

In short, anything you post online can be used against you.

While this may come as a shock to some, insurance companies are well versed in knowing what to look for on your social media pages. They’ll search your friends list, your relatives’ pages, and the content you post.

Their aim is essentially to find something that discredits your claim, cast doubt on your credibility or proves that you aren’t as badly injured as you’re claiming. In fact, most lawyers consider it standard practice to do an internet search for all parties involved in a case.

There have been many legal cases where it’s been found that social media posts were not consistent with claims and the judge either ruled against an injury claim or what was found impacted their claim to some extent.

For example, if you’re claiming an injury has stopped you from being able to work or do certain tasks but your social media shows you climbing mountains or playing sport at the weekend, you may struggle to get a favourable outcome (or even lose your entire case).

It’s also worth noting you should never make representations to your doctor that you can’t do something, and then contradict yourself by doing just that and posting it online.

Read more on why your personal credibility is important.

Example of when social media may be used against you in a personal injury claim

Hunold v Twinn & Anor (2018)

A Queensland district court decision in 2018, in Hunold v Twinn & Anor, vividly illustrated how social media posting conflicted with the reported injuries presented by the plaintiff at trial.

At the time, the plaintiff was injured in 2009 he was a 20-year-old private in the Australian Army. It was alleged he sustained a significant injury to his back and a secondary psychological injury as a result of being kneed in the lower back by a police officer while being arrested for public nuisance in Surfers Paradise.

It was held by the judge that the action by the police officer was excessive and not reasonably necessary in the circumstances.

It was submitted at trial that the injury he sustained to his lower back in the assault prevented him from obtaining the necessary fitness levels required for active duty in the army.

Halfway through 2012, the plaintiff was medically retired and gave evidence at trial that since leaving the army he found it difficult to get out of the house, and despite his efforts to get back into sporting activities like playing cricket, he had to quit due to his lower back pain.

Unfortunately for the plaintiff, however, his Facebook posts told a very different story and the judge argued certain posts revealed that he was not as physically restricted as he said he was.

For example, there were posts showing him climbing a cliff face and jumping from a significant height into a creek, playing at least 21 matches of cricket and riding a quad bike at speed through rough terrain.

Though the judge did admit it was difficult to make any real assessment of how a person is truly feeling by looking at what they choose to present to the rest of the world on their Facebook page.

The judge did accept that the plaintiff was told by psychologists and doctors to be active and get on with his life and was not critical of his attempts to do this. But also found that the Facebook posts showed he was still able to socialise to some extent, have big nights out with friends, go to the raceway, and attend music festivals.

In short, the judge found that the plaintiff’s Facebook posts were inconsistent with the evidence he gave at trial, as well as that the back injury had fully resolved within 12 months of the assault. It followed that the depressed mood he suffered in 2013 was not linked to his injury.

While the plaintiff still won his claim, it can be concluded that had he not contradicted himself he would have been seen as more credible and potentially received more compensation.

Think before you post to social media during your injury claim

You need to consider your privacy and be cautious about what you post on social media after your injury and during your claim. Photos can be taken out of context and in some cases are extremely damaging for obvious reasons.

It’s also worth asking your friends and family to avoid posting photos of you on their social media pages as well.