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Twitter, Facebook and Lawyers

These days, anybody who is anybody has a Twitter account or is a member of Facebook, LinkedIn or Youtube. Social network sites are very much in fashion and for many of you who are stuck at home more than you would like, they are a real boon. You can keep in contact with fellow sufferers and other members of the planet easily and they are a great fun, instant method of communication.

They are also a great way to wreck your accident or insurance claim or claim for DWP benefits. I have written and spoken on many occasions about how insurance companies are happy to pay the cost of a few days’ surveillance.  It is a modest amount to pay to challenge a significant claim for care, employment or accommodation.

Social network sites and film sites like YouTube make it easier and cheaper for the DWP and insurers. They just have to look up the claimant and see what an active and lively social life he or she says that they are leading. Why should insurers or the DWP believe that you need lots of care or are unable to work when you are telling the world on your Twitter page that you are happiest when you are living it up “wid the boyz!”?

The Daily Mirror carried an interesting story on 22 August 2010. It was about a claimant seeking massive damages after an incomplete spinal cord injury. The care regime alone was expected to run to fortunes, but photographs posted of the claimant enjoying a lively social scene on holiday combined with a tip off from a nasty neighbour resulted in literally millions of pounds being wiped off the value of the claim.

You must remember that any case where the symptoms appear disproportionate to the initial injury attracts attention. Chronic pain cases are the perfect example. Sceptical insurers and those protecting DWP purses just cannot believe that people are suffering as badly as they say they are. If those same people then boast of a busy social life and post photographs or films to prove it,  attitudes will inevitably harden, perhaps to the extent of criminal prosecutions.

Let us just imagine this piece of cross examination:-

Barrister – “Would you say that you are an honest person?”
Claimant – “Certainly I am”
Barrister – “Would you always give an accurate picture of your disabilities?”
Claimant – “Oh yes”
Barrister – “Are these extracts from your Facebook page?”
Claimant (sheepishly) – “Yes, they are”
Barrister – “Do you have a very busy social life then?”
Claimant – “No I do not – what I have put here is mostly not true”
Barrister – “But you have just told the Court that you are an honest person.”

Why give the Defendants “a free hit”? It may well be tempting to exaggerate or fantasize about a life that you wish you had, but it makes no sense at all to wreck your claim in the process. You need that money to support you. Please, do not toss it away. If you have put up anything on Facebook or similar which is indiscreet, please check over it immediately and take it down as fast as you can.

This will still not stop the Defendants obtaining their DVD footage, but we can generally tackle that and I would be happy to discuss it in a further article. The social network and film sites are another phenomenon again. We are not trying to protect fraudsters here, but we do want to ensure that naïve claimants (and that can include people claiming benefits from the DWP) are properly protected.

I have a Critical Illness Insurance Policy but the insurers will not pay out

Question:

I have bad Fibromyalgia and not been able to work for twelve months.  I have a Critical Illness Insurance Policy but the insurers will not pay out.  They say that Fibromyalgia is not one of the named illnesses in the policy.  Can I claim?

Answer:

Fibromyalgia may not be a named illness, but these policies usually pay out for total permanent incapacity or disablement.  Whilst nobody wants your Fibromyalgia to be totally or permanently incapacitating, the test is not always as demanding as it sounds.  Generally it means that you will probably not be able to follow either your own occupation or any occupation (depending on the definition in the policy) until your normal retirement date.  If you feel that you satisfy that criteria you will have a good arguable claim for a full payment under the policy.  You will, however, probably need the support of a Consultant who will say not only that you have Fibromyalgia, but you probably will not be able to work again.

A word of warning.  All these policies are different.  It really depends on how the policy defines total and permanent incapacity/disablement whether you come within the definition.  If you are in any doubt, a good solicitor should be able to help you interpret the policy, although obviously he will need to know how bad your Fibromyalgia is and whether or not you can do the various tasks unaided which may form the basis of the definition.

The above question originally appeared in Fibromyalgia Family Magazine

If you are If you are making a claim, check whether you have legal expenses insurance

Question: I have heard that litigation can take years, but I have had to give up my job and am having money problems. Is there anything I can do?

Answer: If you are making a claim, check whether you have legal expenses insurance. It may be part of your buildings cover or house contents cover. If not, your Solicitor may be willing to take on your case on a Conditional Fee Agreement (“no win no fee”) basis. Your Solicitor may also be able to secure an interim payment for you, although in a post-traumatic fibromyalgia case this is likely to be modest.