In 2015, a case was heard before Judge McMeekin of the Supreme Court of Rockhampton which involved a man who was seeking $950,000 in damages for a work injury affecting his left ankle. At trial, the man had told the court that “any knock to my ankle is also really painful…” The employer then showed the court a number of the claimant’s Facebook posts following the accident which focused on the claimant’s evidence about when he stopped participating in karate post accident. The employer also showed the court a video (which had also been obtained from the man’s Facebook page) depicting the claimant participating in a karate session after his accident.
In the judgement, Judge McMeekin highlighted the inconsistencies in the claimant’s evidence. The video footage showed the claimant using the injured foot to kick his opponent and also pivoting on the foot without any obvious signs of discomfort. When assessing the claimant’s compensation, the judge’s impression was that he is “prone to exaggerate”. The claimant’s damages were assessed at $486,613.40 (prior to a 50% reduction being applied due to the accident being determined to be partly his own fault).
In my experience, employers, insurers and their solicitors now regularly check and investigate a claimant’s social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out whether there are any inconsistencies between what the claimant says about the level of their symptoms from their injury compared to what is posted on their social media accounts about their work life, hobbies, recreational and social activities following the accident.
If a claimant has posted information on social media which they believe may jeopardise their claim, I would recommend that they immediately inform their lawyer. A claimant should also tell their lawyer generally about the extent of their participation in any sporting or highly physical/strenuous recreational activities following an accident. It is easier for a lawyer to deal with this potential problem when it arises rather than wait for it to be sprung on them at trial.
Deleting Facebook Posts
Also, claimants should be aware that they can face serious penalties for attempting to destroy social media evidence ‘after the fact” so please speak to your lawyer first before deleting any such posts, tweets, etc.
The lesson to be learned from this case is for a claimant to be honest about the extent of their disability arising from the claimed injury and not to exaggerate the symptoms to doctors or others in an effort to bolster the assessment of their damages.