August 23, 2019

Social Media and Workers’ Compensation Claims – a Bad Combination!

Would you be surprised if I told you that those photos you uploaded to Facebook, or that video of your child’s basketball game now playing on YouTube, or even your restaurant “check-in” on Yelp could cost you thousands of dollars and seriously undermine your workers’ compensation case?  Unfortunately all of these things have happened to men and women pursuing work injury claims in Georgia.

If you did not realize this already, understand that privacy in the United States is pretty much dead.  If you participate in social media like:

  • Facebook
  • My Space
  • Yelp
  • Tumblr
  • Wordress (blogging)
  • Blogger
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • and many more

information about your life can be available to anyone who is looking.  And you can bet that insurance adjusters and insurance defense lawyers are looking.   While private eye surveillance is still used, insurance defense adjusters also run searches for you on various social media platforms.  If they see you running, jumping, lifting or doing anything inconsistent with your claimed injury, they will use that video, photograph or post as grounds to cut off your benefits.

A colleague of mine tells the story of a client of his who decided to video her son’s high school wrestling match and thereafter uploaded to YouTube.  At one point the video shows the claimant climbing bleachers, then jumping  up and down to cheer her son.  Unfortunately this woman was asserting a job injury to her hips and lower back that she claimed was disabling.  When confronted with the video, she insisted that the wrestling match was a one-time event and that she ended up in bed for a week thereafter.  The workers’ compensation judge did not accept this argument and upheld the insurance company’s termination of benefits.  A case that could have settled for $50,000 to $75,000 ended up settling for nuisance value of less than $5,000.

Don’t let this happen to you.  If you are pursuing Georgia workers’ compensation benefits, close or suspend your social media activities until your case is over.

 

 

More Reasons Why Facebook can be Dangerous to Your Workers’ Comp. Case

Last year I published an article on this blog entitled “How Facebook Can Undermine Your Workers’ Compensation Case.”   I pointed out then that the default “privacy” settings on Facebook offered very little privacy at all – your “wall” containing status updates and comments from friends, and your photos are publicly viewable and insurance defense lawyers as well as human resource supervisors will eagerly view your profile to gather evidence.  Some of these photos and comments could be taken out of context and could either reduce the settlement value of your case, or could convince a judge that your injury is not as severe as you content.

I suggested last year that you review your Facebook privacy settings and block access to your wall, photos and other personal information to trusted friends only.

Now, it seems that some defense counsel are taking the next step – that is they are using the discovery rules (interrogatories, requests for production of documents) to require you to make your Facebook profile available as part of the investigation of your case.  This means that the insurance company’s lawyer can demand that you provide access to your Facebook photos, wall and profile.

I recently reviewed a law review article entitled Social Networking and Workers’ Compensation Law at the Crossroads, by Professor Gregory Duhl and attorney Jaclyn Millner.  The authors correctly note that the rules of evidence are more relaxed in an administrative forum like a state workers’ compensation board and that workers’ compensation judges see value in considering the social networking profiles of claimants.

In my Georgia practice I regularly advise my clients that insurance companies will hire private investigators to conduct video surveillance, hoping to videotape a claimant performing  a physical activity that is inconsistent with his claimed injury.  Now I am adding to that warning a suggestion that my clients refrain from posting on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites that could produce screen shots or other evidence that could be used to fight a claim.