Companies Use Facebook for Claims Investigations

In the hours after a car accident, filing a claim with your auto insurance company is one of the first steps you should take. But auto insurance industry insiders say a smart second step is giving social media accounts the once-over to prevent all or part of that claim from being denied.

In the past five years, the use of social media has exploded within the insurance industry, says Frank Darras, an insurance attorney in Ontario, California, who represents plaintiffs in suits against insurance companies. Because social media Web sites provide a real-time examination of users’ lifestyles, insurance companies, claims adjusters and attorneys have begun to monitor and mine them as a valuable source of claims-investigation evidence. Insurers are reviewing information found on such social media sites as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare, Google Plus and Pinterest, and applying it to auto claims, says Chicago personal injury lawyer Michael Helfand.

“This happens all the time,” he says.

Facebook is used in almost every claim now, especially when there is an injury. “Checking social media accounts has become one of the first things an insurance company or adjuster will do when you file a claim,” adds Darras. Especially when any injuries stem from the accident.

Claims Investigation by Social Media
Part of the new claims-investigation process is for an adjuster, agent or insurance company to look for the Facebook, Twitter or other social media account of a person claiming bodily injury stemming from an accident, Helfand says. They’re looking for proof that the person is filing a fraudulent claim, he says.

If the part of your accident claim is for a back injury and you share post-accident pictures of you golfing, surfing or playing ball with the kids, your claim could be denied.

“Over the years, social media has killed a bunch of claims,” says Helfand.

“Almost every insurance company has a special investigation unit (SIU), and policyholders should work on the assumption that SIUs will look into questionable or fraudulent claims,” says Michael Barry, vice president of media relations for the Insurance Information Institute.

“Mining social media for clues is one of the fastest-growing areas of insurance-fraud investigation,” says James Quiggle of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud in a report published in 2012.

While insurance adjusters or agents may not look into the social media accounts of every person who files a claim, they will definitely dig into social media if they have any reason to suspect a fraudulent claim.

“It’s simply part of the due diligence in investigating a case, because so many people are brazen or dumb enough to say one thing to an insurance adjuster while at the same time telling the world something else,” Helfand says. “It’s not unusual for a person to tell the adjuster and doctor how much their back hurts and then post photos from their softball league.

“Facebook and other social media sites have become a great tool for fighting claims because the ‘look at me’ nature of social media causes people to shoot themselves in the foot,” he says.

A claims adjuster will also stick directly to the language you use in the claim. If you report that you’re unable to lift more than 20 pounds, but a picture on social media shows you doing otherwise, Darras says you can expect the claim will be denied.