Georgia Workers’ Compensation Blog, December 2016
Nathan E. Woody, CORALES & WOODY, LLC
Your Social Media and How It Can Affect Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Social media has become a constant in our everyday lives. Services like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have allowed us to keep in contact and readily share information with family and friends around the world. However, in the context of a legal action, some postings on social media could negatively affect your workers’ compensation case.
How can my social media accounts be used against me?
In the past, investigation into whether a claim was questionable or fraudulent required a significant amount of time and expense. Private investigators were, and continue to be, hired routinely by insurance companies for this purpose. However, technology has now made this type of investigation much simpler. A basic search on Google or other search engine can reveal a great deal of information about someone’s current activities, particularly if the individual’s privacy settings are not optimal.
The courts have now made this search even easier. In August 2011, the Georgia State Board of Worker’s Compensation ordered that an injured worker’s computer and social media be readily available to the attorneys for the insurance company. The Superior Court upheld this decision, while the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Georgia ultimately declined to review the Superior Court’s decision.
As explained in our previous blog, Georgia’s workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. Nevertheless, the injured worker or “Claimant” must prove his or her injuries are disabling. Investigators for insurance companies can use any social media pages you have published to question the extent of your injuries, when the injury may have occurred, locate witnesses, determine whether you are participating in activities that conflict with your disability status or confirm a given alibi.
It is important that your social media does not contradict your claim that you have an injury from a work-related incident, or that you are disabled as a result of the injury. Posts that contradict your claim could disqualify you from receiving medical and disability benefits.
What should I do with my social media accounts after I’m injured?
- Turn on the highest privacy setting available. This will help prevent easy access to your personal information by those who are not your friends and family.
- Make sure you know the friends you add on social media. Some investigators have started to create fake pages to send friend requests to injured workers in order to get access to their social media posts if they are not public.
- Avoid posting about your case if at all possible. This type of communication is better suited for direct verbal conversations with your family and loved ones.
- Do not post about recreation and leisure activities while your case is pending. While activities like drinking, celebrating, traveling and exercising during your case do not mean you are a fraud, they may create a perception that you are not disabled or that you are not hurt that badly. You do not want to find yourself in court down the road trying to explain to a judge that you were in a great deal of pain when you took those photos at a wedding reception or at a family barbeque by the lake.
- If you are not sure, do not post. If you are not sure whether to share something, err on the side of caution and don’t share.
Social media can be a wonderful tool for everyday life, but may cause issues with your workers’ compensation case. If you are concerned about the effect your social media may have on your claim, please call Corales & Woody to schedule a free consultation.