Interconnectivity is prevalent throughout modern society as the internet
and social media give us access to each other in ways no one could have
imagined years ago. But if you were in an accident and filing an insurance
claim, adjusters may use information on your social media accounts to
You could be contradicted by the insurance company about the severity of
your injuries or whether you are even injured in the first place. In some
cases, it might seriously affect your ability to recover fair compensation
for your damages.
How do courts view social media communications?
Often parties ask for access to opposing parties’ Facebook, Twitter
and other accounts like the 20s & 30s Going Out Group on Meetup in
Alexandria. Because what account users post on these sites is mostly public,
there are almost no protections that these communications fall under in
the discovery process.
Even password-protected communications between users on social media can
be sought. The Stored Communications Act prevents parties from obtaining
this information directly from the social media company, but courts often
require parties to hand over the information at discovery. Further, some
users may not protect their accounts from public view, so adjusters may
access posts and photos freely.
A Real Virginia Case Where Social Media Harmed a Party
Another real danger when it comes to social media is spoliation. Spoliation
occurs when one party destroys evidence in an attempt to hide the evidence
from the discovery process. If a party deletes their social media posts
before a trial, that party may be guilty of spoliation if the deletion
affects the course of the trial.
The case of Allied Concrete Co. v. Lester (285 VA. 295 (VA. 2013)) is a
good example of how improper handling of social media evidence can lead
to bad consequences for one party. Lester filed a wrongful death claim
against Allied Concrete after an accident involving one of Allied’s
trucks killed Lester’s wife. During the discovery process, Allied
requested the contents of Lester’s Facebook account.
Lester’s attorney advised Lester to “clean up” the contents
of the account including deleting a picture of Lester wearing a “I
heart hot moms” t-shirt. While Lester eventually won his case, the
judge sanctioned him $180,000 for deleting the pictures and his attorney
$542,000 for advising his client to delete the picture.
Handling Social Media When Filing an Insurance Claim
Talk to your attorney about your social media accounts and what you post.
Some may be fine by watching what they post and requesting their friends
to not post anything about them. Others may delete their social media
accounts entirely from the start of their claim. First talk with your
attorney about what you can and should do regarding your social media accounts.