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Self Surveillance In Auto Accident Cases – Learn How You Are Being Watched

Read The Video Transcript Below

Hi. It’s Marcus again, and welcome to this week’s edition of our video blog.

I want to talk to you about something that we used to call surveillance in this business. You know I’ve represented injured people for a long time, and insurance companies for many years would hire these kind of investigative folks — some of them more reputable than others — and they would snoop around and take pictures of our clients mowing their lawn or pushing their children around in their strollers and then they would use those photographs to say “see? The person’s not hurt”. And it was kind of an interesting thing, because a snapshot of somebody doing something was not necessarily reflective of whether or not they suffered pain or maybe even suffered any consequences the next day for the activity level of the day before, but you know what? Surveillance has been replaced in large measure by something I bet you hadn’t thought about and that is our own surveillance on ourselves. I’m talking about social media. You know, it’s become such a part of our lives.

I was traveling this weekend, and I was asking my wife “how did we ever exist before cell phones?” And I’ve got children, and I ask them how did they ever exist before Facebook. But now we’ve got an issue, and it’s becoming a fairly serious issue in our industry, where our clients who have been the victims of accidents, they have Facebook pages or other social media, and they document their own lives. And they do it with video. They do it with photographs, and they do it many times with the most intimate parts of their lives, in the most intimate feelings and thoughts about their lives. And social media has now become a weapon used by insurance companies against our clients.

Indeed just yesterday, we had a hearing in front of a judge where an insurance company had sent a request to our client requesting that they download and provide the entire history and content from their Facebook page going back 12 years. I didn’t even know Facebook was 12 years old, but the idea that you could capture 12 years worth of data and just give it to the insurance company for them to go through that part of your life is very troubling. Fortunately for us, Adrian Bridges of our office and I were able to successfully argue that that request was over-broad, but courts in this state are ruling every day that your social media content IS discoverable and must be provided to the insurance company.

Now what if they didn’t have to ask you for that? What if they could just go to your site and learn about you without you even knowing it? Well, guess what? They can.

Anytime you’re in an accident, and anytime you make an insurance claim now-a-days, you can expect that that insurance company is going to your social media sites…going there and looking at your behavior. And if you claim that your neck is hurt or your back is hurt, but you’ve got a picture of you skydiving last weekend and/or scuba diving last weekend, you can expect that insurance company to know that and use that against you.

Now I tell my clients, and I have for years, don’t manage your life to manage your lawsuit. Live your life. Do the things that you love to do. Do the things that you can do, and we’ll work on your case and we’ll present it in its best light. Don’t manipulate your behavior in order to justify your claim or manipulate your behavior in order to modify your claim. Don’t do that. Life is too valuable to spend time artificially presenting it, but do take this away from our visit this morning.

Your social media page and what you do with it becomes an integral part of your claim. Every time you make a claim now in the State of Florida and definitely in our local panhandle community, the judges are granting the insurance request to get all of the back data. Judges are granting the discoverability of those pages…your photographs, your videos…all of that. That’s why here at Michles & Booth, we recommend to our clients when they start making a claim that they shut down their social media pages. We actually tell them “it’s going to become a weapon used against you; it will be taken out of context. It will be misrepresented, and it will damage your claim”.

So be aware. I use this topic this morning just put that out there. You’d be amazed how many people look at me when I say that. “Gosh! I never thought of that.” I give you one example. We had a case where we represented a young woman who was involved in a very serious accident, very serious, and she needed a neck surgery. She was young and otherwise healthy and otherwise active, and she was a competitive horse rider. She did barrel racing, and she did some other things and western riding, and she was kind of a rodeo participant, and she was a very, very active lady. No question in my mind that she truly had a neck injury, but when the insurance company got a hold of some of the videos of her racing that horse, and I’m talking about a very physically active young woman in very physical sport, the insurance company looked at me and said “Marcus, how are you going to convince a jury that she’s got a sore neck when she’s out there galloping and racing this horse around these barrels?” And you know what, it doesn’t necessarily prove that her neck isn’t hurt, but it hurts her claim that that neck injury is truly impacting her life in any substantial way.

So you got a choice to make. You need to modify your behavior and modify your social media pages, or you’ve got to face the scrutiny that’s occurring every day, and I’ll end where I started. Surveillance now, still occurring in all these cases, but it’s actually being done by us on ourselves. So keep that in mind when you’re working on your Facebook page or you’re making comments.

Till next week, I’m Marcus for Michles & Booth. If you want to read more, see more about this, go to ForTheVictims.com/blog, let us have your comments. Let us know what you think. Thanks!

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