Even when you're a professional claims handler, it's often easy to discount the value of social media research. In a word: Don't. Especially as sites like Facebook constantly update their security settings, important information on plaintiffs, third parties, and even your own client can be left public and exposed. Time and time again we see social media research making an impact in the courtroom and at the negotiation table. In this third part of our five part series on easy ways to lower your litigation costs, we look at three simple tasks commonly delegated to a law firm unnecessarily. Make sure you check back next week for three more tips on how to lower your litigation costs.
1. Perform a full social media search:
A lot of people share their lives online these days. The internet is now home to the three "R"s of investigations: rants, rumors, and relationships. A tweet posted minutes after an accident that reads, "Note to self: don't text and drive," can make (or break) a case. Likewise, social media can give you a context on a person's life. Are they bored, busy, angry, or desperate for attention? Being an expert on gathering such information can put a sizable dent in the initial research time a law firm expends on a new case.
2. Perform a search based upon alternative identities:
People speak at length about the "anonymity" of the internet, but in reality it provides mostly assumed or alternative identities. Generally, people become a username or "handle," which protects their name from the casual observer, but rarely changes significantly from one site to the next. As such, if a plaintiff posts on Facebook a video with the caption "check out my vacation" from their YouTube account, you can use that YouTube account username to provide an additional identity to perform searches. People are remarkably consistent with their "anonymous" identities.
3. Put names into Google (and other search engines):
It sounds simple. But it is so simple that claims handlers often forget to do it. Put the plaintiff's name into Google, Bing, and Yahoo. See what pops up. Go beyond the first and second page-try to get a feel for the person, their interests, and their stature online. Obviously, this will not work for everyone-a search for "John Smith" will cause a migraine-but enough can be gained to offset the negligible cost of your time performing the search.
If the claims professional on one of our recent cases had completed these three simple tasks, she or he would have saved $610.00 This may not sound like much, but extrapolate that savings across 100 claims she or he is currently working and suddenly they have saved their company $61,000.00. Would these tips work in your office?