Insurance lawyers are increasingly turning to the web and social networking sites to root out rogues. DLA Piper says the aim is to “combat excessive and exaggerated claims by routinely conducting simple and cost-effective background investigations”.
And the results have been impressive.
Alan Jacobs, partner and head of insurance at the Birmingham office, said: “A recent example of our success was in an accident at work case where the individual concerned claimed the back injury he had suffered had rendered him unable to play cricket for six months.
“In examining the claim we conducted a range of online investigations which included looking at his cricket team’s website. In doing so we obtained evidence that he had not missed a match all season, and had even played for them on the weekend afterwards.
“This revelation obviously put the seriousness of his injuries into question and reduced his damages substantially. As far as his claim went it was probably little consolation that he was the team’s top scorer.”
Mr Jacobs said social networking sites were also providing significant information.
He went on: “Often people leave their profile on such sites open for public viewing. This is essentially ‘free surveillance’ as the profiles are often updated with photos and narrative about recent holidays and sporting activities undertaken.
“A recent example of a case where we obtained useful evidence from a social networking site involved a person who claimed damages following a road accident. It was a matter of dispute whether they were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time. The allegation was denied.
“However, on perusing the man’s social networking site we obtained photographic evidence which appeared to show him sitting in the driver’s seat of his vehicle smoking an illegal substance.
“This called into question his credibility as a witness and contributed heavily to the favourable settlement of the case.”