June 5, 2015
Suffering from a disability and being out of work and out of the loop with your co-workers and friends can lead to feelings of isolation. It is common to turn to social media outlets to feel more connected to the “outside world.”
While reading news related to workers’ compensation, I came across reports of the proliferation of geo-tagging technology throughout social media and how it has made it easier for the insurance industry to investigate claimants. Simply put, geo-technology tracks the date, location and time that a photo or video was taken and it has reduced the time, effort and cost of proving a fraudulent claim. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or any social media platform, courts tend to find no reasonable expectation of privacy when using social networking sites.
Documenting travels, attendance at various outings, or other activities can be detrimental to your workers’ compensation case. Posting about your nature walks on Facebook, visits to sporting events on Twitter, or pictures of the newly planted garden on Instagram, can lead insurance companies to believe that you are not as disabled as you report or, in cases of total disability, that you are, in fact, capable of doing work like activity. These kinds of discoveries can lead to fraud accusations which complicate a claim and result in a loss of benefits or worse, criminal liability.
In California, a 22 year-old workers’ compensation claimant was charged with fraud based upon her participation in a beauty contest. Video of the contest was posted on both Facebook and YouTube and depicted her wearing high heels without any apparent discomfort, while the contemporaneous reports of her doctor required the use of orthopedic shoes, crutches, and kept her out of work because of the need to maintain her foot elevated whenever possible. No small mistake, she faces up to one year in jail, three years of probation, and a $24,000 fine.
We caution all of our clients to take care in “over-sharing” on the internet in general. But when thinking about posting activity on social media sites, if you have to question, “could this be interpreted as fraud?” – you may want to keep the post to yourself.
The best way to protect yourself and your benefits is to clearly understand your work restrictions as outlined by your doctor and follow those recommendations. If your doctor says you cannot do any bending, twisting, or pulling, you will probably have to skip your weekend round of golf or even batting practice with the kids.
We understand that adding these worries to everything else associated with your disability and your case is overwhelming. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us to ease your mind.
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