ICBC’s practice of hiring private investigators to investigate claimants before trial is common. It is one of the ways ICBC protects itself from fraudulent claims. Such fraudulent claims can increase everyone’s insurance premiums. However, such investigative reports can also hurt legitimate claimants in the courtroom. Should the claimant testify that his life has been ruined as a result of the accident and then be presented with Facebook postings depicting him smiling and participating in happy events, the claimant may, at a minimum, be portrayed as exaggerating his injuries caused by the car accident.
ICBC will frequently hire investigators to carry out investigations to learn more about a claimant and uncover evidence they can use to defend against insurance claims. ICBC does not conduct investigations on all claimants as the costs are prohibitive. However, if ICBC has concerns about the validity of a claim, it is a costly claim or the claimant has been off work for a long time, there is a good chance they will hire an investigator.
ICBC investigations include interviewing co-workers or neighbours and video surveillance. It also now includes a cyber-investigation. Social media and the internet have provided ICBC with another way of investigating claims. Many of us, especially the under 30 crowd, are plugged into Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and many others.
On January 24, 2012, CBC reported a story about Corbin Joseph, a BC man, who bragged about insurance fraud on his Facebook page. He had rolled his vehicle on a rural road resulting in a total loss of his vehicle. He told ICBC that a friend had been driving his vehicle at the time of the accident as he was prohibited from driving. As a result of the Facebook posting, Joseph was fined $2,000 and ordered to pay more than $18,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to fraud and obstruction of justice in connection with the ICBC claim.
ICBC has become less reliant on conventional investigation methods, such as having an investigator follow a claimant around with a video camera and more focused on the plethora of digital information available online about claimants. The focus has shifted because people are willing to post details about their personal lives and experiences online. On April 22, 2015, the Vancouver Sun reported that ICBC is turning its fraud investigations over, in part, to an internal team of cyber analysts. These cyber analysts can dig into a claimant’s digital history to see if they are not being forthright.
Although ICBC investigations are conducted to sniff out exaggerated or fraudulent claims, the information obtained may also be used to undermine a claimants credibility, find witnesses who will say negative things about the claimant’s injuries or activities, or learn what the claimant has been up to or saying to others in cyberspace in order to lessen the amount of the claim being made.
ICBC may seek a court order requiring claimants to disclose online profiles, including private messages and photographs. Claimants should have counsel to fight ICBC on these applications. Further, it’s important to have a lawyer that recognizes and can argue that people usually post highlights of their lives online, not daily sufferings. Online profiles provide a much distorted view of what people’s lives are actually like.
It is disturbing to think that you could be being followed by an ICBC investigator, on foot or digitally if you have been in a car accident and make an injury claim. The best advice is to have an experienced personal injury lawyer represent you and to be aware that anything you say or do or post could come to ICBC’s attention and may be used against you in court. To semi-quote one of the most influential dystopian novels ever written, 1984 by George Orwell, “[ICBC] is Watching You.”The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.