Social Media and Your Worker’s Compensation Claim
When you’re taking time off to recover from a work injury, it can be very tempting to log on to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and post about your day. You may want to recount your job incident or share happier experiences with your friends. But did you know that social media posts could hurt your worker’s comp claim?
Over and over, workers’ comp claimants in Virginia have been unpleasantly surprised when they find out that their happy photos and videos online are being used against their injury case. This is possible because insurance adjusters and investigators can – and will – scour social media profiles for any evidence to dispute a worker’s injury claim.
If you have initiated a worker’s compensation claim and then posted about going on vacation or engaging in physical hobbies, that post could be used to argue that your injury isn’t serious or that you don’t have a compensable injury at all.
Examples of social media posts destroying workers’ comp claims
Insurance companies and their investigators have been using social media as a resource for years now. Here are some instances when online postings have incriminated workers’ comp claimants:
- In 2009, a warehouse worker in California filed a claim for a job-related back injury. However, investigators found his Facebook profile, where he had posted about participating in a bowling tournament at a specific alley. An investigator went to the tournament, blending in with spectators, and filmed the claimant playing. There was also a banner congratulating the claimant for bowling a perfect game.
- In 2014, a female store clerk started collecting worker’s comp benefits for a fractured toe, claiming she couldn’t put weight on her foot for long periods. Unfortunately, a YouTube video surfaced showing her participating in a beauty pageant where she was walking around in high heels with no signs of discomfort. The court charged her with workers’ comp fraud.
- In 2015, a grounds maintenance worker in Washington state had been receiving benefits for knee injuries when investigators found Facebook posts about his racing activities. It turned out that the claimant had been racing in BMX (off-road bicycle) races. The court ordered him to return over $14,000 of disability benefits.
Is it legal for insurance investigators to check your social media?
The short answer is yes; insurance companies and private investigators may legally look through your social media profiles for evidence. Anything you post publicly can be accessed directly by anyone investigating your claim. This includes your photos, videos, and comments you make on someone else’s public post.
What about posts you have set to “Private” or “Friends Only” or communication you posted to a private online group? There’s still a chance that an investigator could access them if a judge compels you to produce them for the case.
Workers’ comp investigators combine social media checks with other forms of “traditional” surveillance. In particular, video surveillance is commonly used to capture what claimants may be doing outside their homes. These days, some private investigation firms even use drones to capture footage. Yes, this is generally legal as long as the person is in public view while being filmed. Even innocent activities like gardening or walking your dog could be taken out of context to damage your injury claim.
How to Protect Your Worker’s Comp Claim Around Social Media
When you have an open worker’s compensation case, it’s best to avoid posting anything on the internet, no matter how harmless the content seems. Next to that, observe these Dos and Don’ts to prevent harming your comp claim via social media:
- DO ask your family and friends to avoid posting about you on social media for the time being. Even if you didn’t do anything fun with them recently, they may want to tag you in throwback pictures or talk about how well you’re doing after your accident. Those are also potentially incriminating posts.
- DO be wary of recent friend requests from people you don’t know in real life. It could be an attempt by investigators to obtain further information about you.
- DON’T post updates about your health and recovery while the case is ongoing.
- DON’T expose yourself to situations where you could be filmed doing physical activities.
- DON’T do location check-ins such as those on Foursquare or Facebook. Also, be aware that many social media posts can be “geo-tagged” They can automatically publicize your location based on your device settings.
You’ll also want to be aware of other activities that could lead to a worker’s comp denial outside of social media. Read our blog post on common mistakes in workers’ comp claims here.
Get the Protection of a Virginia Workers’ Comp Lawyer
Having an attorney can be invaluable in protecting you from costly mistakes and being taken advantage of by the workers’ comp insurer. In Lynchburg, Roanoke, and nearby areas, Attorney Jaleh K. Slominski is highly trusted for her tireless work on behalf of injured employees. She has recently been named one of the “Go-To Lawyers” for worker’s compensation.
Talk to Attorney Slominski about your worker’s compensation concerns. Contact us by email, or call (434) 384-9400 (Lynchburg) or (540) 554-3762 (Roanoke).