Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer Nancy Young: For many years, insurance companies have been hiring private investigators to conduct surveillance on personal injury claimants. However, the right to spy doesn’t stop with the physical world. In the past few years, the laws of Ontario have expanded to allow snooping in cyberspace. This includes the contents of your social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They’re fair game for private eyes and insurance companies.
While you may set your accounts to private or “friends only,” Ontario case law has confirmed that these actions do not ensure that your pictures and messages are safe from the prying eyes of insurance companies and their lawyers. The story of this woman made a splash in the papers a few years ago, and it serves as a good example of what can happen when an insurance company takes a peek at your Facebook page.
Under the civil litigation rules of Ontario, any document (and document is specifically defined to include data and information in electronic form) that is relevant to a claim must be produced to the other side for examination.
The only way to avoid the potential of your social media accounts
becoming an issue is to delete all accounts upon signing on with a
personal injury firm.
The law has been clear that proper disclosure is crucial to the healthy functioning of our civil justice system. Lawyers must certify in writing that they have explained this obligation to their clients during the initial stages of litigation. Extending this obligation to social media, a claimant has a duty to produce any posts or photographs on their account that are relevant to their claim.
This can have serious consequences for your case. For instance, if you are alleging a diminished quality of life after a car crash, but post pictures of yourself having a good time at a dance club sometime after the accident, you will most likely have to produce these pictures for the insurance company. You can guess what their interpretation will be.
The only way to avoid the potential of your social media accounts becoming an issue is to delete all accounts upon signing on with a personal injury firm. If you insist on keeping your social media accounts open, then at least ensure that you are not posting updates or pictures that could jeopardize your claim, regardless of your privacy settings. Just remember that pictures are subject to interpretation – a photo that seems harmless to you may appear quite differently to someone else.
As online social networking tools continue to evolve, Ontario laws governing the same will continue to evolve as well. A good rule of thumb to remember is that if you want something to remain private, the last thing you should do is put it online.