Social media evidence: slipshod irreverence or irrelevant snapshots?

The concept of insurers defending injury claims using social media evidence is not new. After all, the online public domain is like any other recorded medium for stalking monitoring, well, the public. It’s getting social ‘evidence’ to stick that’s always been the sticking point.

The lines blur between what’s considered private and public, thus what’s admissible as evidence. Also, questions arise about what we share via our public profile(s).

Do our facebook status updates reflect what’s going on in our offline life? Or is what we share a sham, keeping up a misguided pretence for those we would impress?

Vanity is becoming a nuisance, I can see why women give it up…

It could well be that our vanity is our own undoing. Not only in court, but IRL, too.

For instance, when we share that shot from the racecourse when we were supposedly ‘ill’. To our friends and family, even some tolerant bosses, these instances are mere faux pas. Yes, you looked so ill as you collected on that 33/1 outsider that came in for you at Cheltenham. Mm, or not.

But what about when a judge or jury has to preside over such evidence? Should they take what they see literally? If someone’s smiling in a recent shot, then all must be good in their world, right?

The Camera Never Lies – or does it?

In the past, social media evidence hasn’t held much sway with judges. First, council has to prove potential relevance to a judge before they’ll order its use if it’s not in the public domain. Then the court has to prove that the content extracted is a true reflection of the plaintiff/defendant’s lifestyle for the qualifying period.

In countless cases, judges have dismissed the use of social media. Yes, individual shots may be posted to ‘[keep] up appearances’. But like the age old swan, the grace on the surface may not reflect any submerged turmoil.

In Canada, there has been a development, though. And it will serve as a warning for anyone making a claim who continues to use social, in this case facebook, whilst they’re ‘suffering’.

The case of Sarah Tombasso: consistently inconsistent

Sarah Tambosso purported herself as a once happy-go-lucky individual. In 2008, she was involved in the first of two car accidents that she used to build up her case for damages. The undisclosed amount was said to be in the region of ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’.

Her second car accident, in 2010, only served to aggravate the conditions from her previous collision. The conditions cited were PTSD and depression.

The result, according to her council, was that she’d turned into a ‘homebody’. Gone was the social butterfly she once was, the internet now the only engagement she had with friends. Moreover, she related to her psychiatrist that,

“I’m not a happy person. My life sucks.”

Not what the doctor ordered

The evidence gathered, however, portrayed a different lifestyle. As well as almost 200 pages from Tambosso’s facebook account, video surveillance was also submitted to the court to disprove her claim.

The defence gathered all manner of social activity as evidence. Partying, days out with friends, having a pop at karaoke; her facebook page was a trail of contradiction.

And that’s how the judge eventually ruled. There was so little consistency with the conditions she claimed the car accidents had instigated that the judge only awarded $36,000.

The case has gone to appeal. But as social becomes an ever greater part of our lives, we must consider the image our public self portrays. The cost of not doing so, as Tombasso discovered, could be very high.

If I don’t wear a seat belt, will I be able to make an accident claim?

One of the laws governing road safety reached a milestone this year: 30 years of enforced seatbelt-wearing. So why are people still unsure about whether they can make a claim if they’re in an accident and they’ve not buckled up?

There is no definitive answer, so dismissiveness of claiming is not that great a surprise. Many people believe that, if they’re involved in an RTA and are not wearing their seatbelt, it could negate any claim to compensation. But it may not be so.

Much of this wrongly-held belief can be attributed to so few people now driving without wearing a seatbelt; hence, accidents involving drivers not buckled up have decreased immensely over the years.

However, it wasn’t always this way. When the law was introduced in 1983, only a third of drivers believed that seatbelts saved lives.

Compare that to a survey undertaken by the AA in the run-up to the seatbelt law’s thirtieth anniversary, which suggests that 95% of drivers now believe that statement, you begin to comprehend the shift in consumer thinking.

What is the seatbelt law, exactly?

Ignorance is no defence when it comes to making an accident claim without a seatbelt.

From the moment you step into the drivers seat on your first lesson until you walk out of the test centre throwing the L plates in the air, you will have been reminded to buckle up by your instructor or examiner.

But how does the law affect passengers?

Most cars now come with seatbelts for every seat in the car. Certainly, every seat in a car that would be covered by insurance has the facility to buckle up. But again, older cars may not have them fitted to all seats.

Therefore, the law states that car occupants travelling in seats that have seatbelts fitted must wear them. Only one person is allowed per belt and children smaller than 135cm or aged 11 and below should have a car seat appropriate for their weight.

On the spot fines of sixty pounds can be imposed for every occupant caught not wearing their seatbelt; this is likely to be a heftier fine (up to £500) should the case go to court.

What will happen in an accident claim court if I’ve not worn my seatbelt?

It can add an element of difficulty, claiming for injury, when you’re not wearing your seatbelt in the case of an accident. However, if the accident’s not your fault, you may still be entitled to compensation of some sort.

What tends to happen is that opposing insurers claim ‘contributory negligence’, i.e. your injuries could have been lessened (or avoided) had you been within the guidelines of the law.

If this theory is upheld, any compensation you would have been entitled to may be lessened as a consequence.

There is, however, an argument that seatbelts themselves can be the cause of injury. We’ll look at that in the next post.

Remember: clunk, click, every trip.

How old am I?

Paralysed student awarded compensation in wake of accident

One paralysed student from Sheffield was recently awarded personal injury compensation in the wake of a car accident, as the RTA has left her with injuries that will require lifelong care.

South Yorkshire native Rosie Mayes had been only twenty years of age when she was involved in a road traffic accident involving a car that was driven by her former boyfriend that left the road and collided with an embankment, coming to rest on its roof.  According to motor accident claim experts writing for the Bourne Local newspaper, Ms Mayes was trapped within the car wreck for one half-hour as emergency services strove to free her from the wreckage before rushing the injured York University student to hospital.

Ms Mayes, who had been pursuing a a history degree, suffered severe spinal damage in the accident, spent more than ten months in hospital as she recovered.  However, the young woman is now confined to a wheelchair due to her tetraplegia and now needs 24 hour a day care.

The insurance company for the driver of the car was named as a defendant in Ms Mayes’ compensation claim, resulting in a lifelong care cost award made to the paralysed student for what could turnout to be worth millions of pounds.  Ms Mayes’ father, who spoke to the press in the wake of the hearing at the High Court in Leeds where her daughter was awarded the right to compensation, described Ms Mayes as an inspiring figure, as she has returned to her studies at university, demonstrating the determination to continue to live her life regardless of her debilitating injuries.

Hampshire family launches £300k motor accident claim

A family from Hampshire recently launched a motor accident claim for the injuries sustained by a young schoolboy after he was knocked down by a car, with the boy’s parents seeking in excess of £300,000 in personal injury compensation, experts say.

Troy Brooks, eleven years of age, had been trying to cross Hampton Lane after leaving Blackfield Junior School so he could meet his mother when he was involved in the traffic collision. In the wake of the RTA, young Troy was rushed to the Southampton General Hospital for treatment, regaining consciousness after ten days in a coma only to discover that he had been left with permanent brain damage from a bleed on the brain, according to the family’s personal injury claims.

An article recently appearing in the Daily Echo newspaper reported that Troy’s family has made a claim against the Fawley native Sophie Lennards, the nineteen year old driver of the vehicle, for negligence by exceeding the speed limit and for not taking steps to avoid the collision.  Rona Brooks, Troy’s forty four year old mother, said in an interview with the newspaper that the family’s life was completely destroyed by the accident, and that their existence had been ‘worse than a nightmare’ ever since.

If successful in their compensation claim, the Brooks family could stand to receive a substantial damages award for not only young Troy’s pain and suffering but to provide for the child’s medical needs for the foreseeable future as a result of the injuries he sustained in the traffic collision.

Government encourages using new tech to reduce motor claims

In an effort to reduce the number of motor accident claims that are being made in the UK, the Government is examining whether encouraging the use of new technology, such as telematics-based insurance, to gather information on motoring habits.

Telematics, or ‘black box’ technology, has been offered by insurers in increasing numbers as of late, as the device, similar to a satnav, keeps track of a motorist’s performance behind the wheel and rewards good drivers with lowered rates – and bad ones with higher ones.  As the technology would purportedly lead to drivers behaving themselves behind the wheel in greater numbers in order to earn deep discounts, the Government is banking on it to reduce the number of RTAs that occur on UK roadways, which would in turn reduce the number of personal injury claims as well.

Many industry experts also say that the data gathered by insurers could also play a dual role in reducing the number of massive personal injury compensation payouts.  If a claimant can be proven beyond a doubt to have been engaging in motoring behaviour that contributed to their accident, the amount of compensation they are entitled to is reduced – and with insurers keeping records of motorists’ activities behind the wheel, claimants can be called out for exceeding the speed limit or driving recklessly prior to the incident for which they’re making a compensation claim.

The only downside, some detractors say, is that Brits may be trading their privacy for safety.  However, proponents of the technology point out that a motorist is in public whilst behind the wheel, and the telematics technology cannot exactly ring your mum to tell them you were out too late at the pub the night before.

Wheeled excavator involved in RTA, worker injured

One maintenance fitter was injured on the M1 motorway as the wheeled excavator he was operating was involved in an RTA by striking an overhead bridge, motor accident claim experts recently reported.

The man, whose name has not been released to the press due to concerns regarding his privacy, had been employed by Van Elle Ltd, a Nottinghamshire-based engineering contractor, when his vehicle’s boom struck the bridge and sent him careering through the open front screen of the vehicle and right over the steering wheel, according to his personal injury claims.  The man’s head then struck the front excavator blade of the vehicle,  sustaining injuries so severe that he spent two weeks in a coma and then an additional five months’ worth of rehabilitation.

The injured man has ultimately returned to work.  However, as he still has reduced function in his left leg and arm, he is still receiving physiotherapy.

Shortly after the incident, the Government’s Health and Safety Executive investigated the man’s injuries, discovering that not only had the employee not been given adequate training on how to use the excavator safely, but he had also not been wearing his seat belt prior to the accident.  It was additionally made known that the injured worker had only been behind the wheel as the regular driver was not available, leading him to stand in for him.

Pinxton, Nottinghamshire firm Van Elle Ltd, was prosecuted by the HSE at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court, which led to a fine of £12,750 and a total of £29,660 in court costs for the company after it admitted to breaching health and safety regulations related to the use of work equipment.

Paralysed car technician launches motor accident claim

After he was left with paralysis from the neck down from an RTA involving a high performance vehicle, one car technician is launching a motor accident claim against his former employers, experts say.

Stephen Harris, thirty one years of age, had been working at the Maidstone, Kent Ferrari Centre as a car technician when he lost control of the Ferrari 348 TS that he had been test driving, careering into another vehicle in the process.  While the other vehicle’s occupant emerged from the incident relatively unscathed, Mr Harris sustained severe injuries which left him in need of 24 hour a day care due to being paralysed, according to his personal injury claims.

Now, the injured former car technician is launching a personal injury compensation claim against the Ferrari Centre on the basis that they were negligent by permitting him to conduct test drives on the open road in such a high performance vehicle.  Mr Harris also states that Roger Collingwood, his former boss, had told the injured man to ensure the Ferrari was running smoothly by taking the car up to 100 mph.

When approached for comment, Mr Collingwood denied any and all negligence in regards to Mr Harris’ injuries.  He also remarked that every employee of the Ferrari Centre were always given instructions to remain in complete compliance with the rules of the road, which included to never exceed any speed limits set by the Government.

Personal injury experts report that the case is understood to be heard by the courts sometime after the New Year.

Nurse struck by hit and run driver asks for accident claim aid

One nurse who was struck by a hit and run driver has asked for aid in her motor accident claim by asking any witnesses to the incident to come forward.

45 year old Michelle Ledden had been outside her place of work at Rochdale Infirmary when the nurse practitioner was struck from behind in the back in January of 2010, according to her traffic accident claim. Unfortunately, investigations into the identity of the vehicle which struck her – which Ms Ledden believes to have been an ambulance – have been fruitless.

Now, the Milnrow, Rochdale native has high hopes that witnesses will soon be able to shed some light on the matter as she continues her battle for personal injury compensation stemming from the injuries she sustained while she had been walking along the pavement on her way out of the infirmary’s car park.

Ms Ledden had her back to the road as she stopped to chat with a former A&E patient when she was suddenly alerted by her colleague’s shout to the driver of the vehicle, followed by a ‘huge jolt’ as the vehicle struck her in the back after mounting the pavement where she was standing.

In the wake of the incident,Ms Ledden has been suffering pain and back spasms so excruciating that the nurse practitioner likened the feeling to being struck with a cricket bat.   A member of her legal team remarked that back pain can be agonising for the sufferer, especially because it can flare up seemingly unannounced – something that anyone suffering from a back injury would surely know.

Ms Ledden soon found that her injuries were too severe to allow her to continue working, even though she had attempted to carry on with her regular duties as a nurse practitioner.

Teesside woman brings motor accident claim, wins £3m

After bringing a motor accident claim against the insurers of a taxi driver that severely injured her as a girl, one Teesside woman has recently won a £3 million personal injury compensation award at London’s High Court.

Vicki Hart, now aged twenty two, had only been fourteen years old when a taxi knocked her down while she was attempting to cross Guisborough’s Rectory Lane.  Ms Hart suffered life-changing injuries in the accident, according to her personal injury claims, including a broken neck, a fractured skull, and a blood clot in her brain which led her to suffer a serious stroke.

Ms Hart’s doctors were genuinely afraid that her injuries would be too severe for her to recover from.  However, the teenage schoolgirl survived, though the injuries she sustained have left her profoundly disabled, requiring 24 hour a day support and care.

Both Ms Hart and her family brought a motor accident claim against the insurance company of the taxi driver, with the end result of the High Court in London approving a compensation package with a £3 million sum.  The damages award will go towards providing Ms Hart’s extensive needs.

The family were pleased, said a member of Ms Hart’s legal team, with the outcome of the case, as the family had to rely upon very limited levels of care, since it had to be paid for by their local authority and primary care trust prior to the settlement award.  The family’s legal representative also said that Ms Hart’s quality of life will undergo vast improvements due to the size of the settlement as well.

The taxi driver’s insurance company declined to comment.

Yorkshire couple narrowly escape injury in RTA

After their rear window of their Fiat Punto was smashed by a cycle rack that had slipped from where it had been fitted on their car, one Yorkshire couple narrowly escaped injury on an RTA on the A58 (M).

According to motor accident claim experts writing for the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper, Leeds natives Andrew Thomas and Elizabeth Cooper had been on their way to Devon for a planned cycling weekend at the time of the incident.  Thirty year old Mr Thomas, who lives with Ms Cooper in Leeds, had bought both two bikes and the rack itself from their local Halfords branch, personal injury claims specialists writing for the newspaper said.

However, not ten minutes after they had fitted the cycle rack to their car, the couple were startled when the rack dumped both bikes to the road, ripped off the rear spoiler to the vehicle, and smashed its rear window after it slipped.  Both Mr Thomas and Ms Cooper were forced to pull off onto the road as a result.

The faulty cycle rack could have caused serious injuries, said thirty seven year old Ms Cooper, who had been badly shaken by the accident.  In the wake of the incident, Halfords had initially offered a £100 ‘goodwill gesture’ to the couple, but have since remarked that they will be not only offer a discount on the two purchased cycles but will also be replacing the cycle rack and pay for the repairs needed to the couple’s car.

Luckily for both the couple and for Halfords, none of the other motorists sharing the road with Ms Cooper and Mr Thomas, as a collision with debris could have caused a quite serious incident that could have left to severe injuries.