If you are off work for a work-related injury, social media can help you stay connected with friends and family as you recover from your injuries. However, if you’ve suffered a work-related injury and are pursuing a workers’ compensation claim, the way you use your social media accounts could jeopardize your benefits. Take precautions to ensure that your online activity doesn’t impact your claim. Many insurance companies are asking for access to your social media accounts including passwords as part of the discovery process when you file a claim. Some courts have determined that insurance companies have the right to access even private information on your social media accounts. Other courts have held that information that is accessible to the public is the only information the insurance company can have access to in the discovery process.
You should assume that anything that you post to your social media accounts, public or private, could be seen by the insurance company and used against you in your case. The only sure way to prevent this from hurting your claim is to not use social media in any form after suffering a work injury. This may be a good excuse to back off social media for a while for some people, but it may seem unrealistic to others. Below are some guidelines as to how to best protect yourself if you cannot quit social media entirely during the time of your claim.
How Social Media Can Hurt Your Claim
Many people today use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media platforms to find and share information and connect with friends. When you’re off work recovering from an injury, you may spend extra time online—especially if your mobility is limited. Using social media to help you find a babysitter for your kids while you go to the doctor or friends to offer sympathetic ears when you’re feeling ill generally won’t impact your workers’ compensation claim.
However, you should resist the urge to give updates about your condition or document your daily life on social media while you are recovering. You absolutely should not post criticisms of your company, co-workers, or the workers compensation insurer during your claims process. Also, refrain from updating your profiles with all those extra old vacation photos you’ve been meaning to post. Your workers’ compensation carrier will almost certainly monitor your social media feeds. They will do this by using the accounts of co-workers that you are already friends with or by an investigator or adjuster asking to be “friends” with you or otherwise connect to your account. You may be asked in a deposition about your activities and restrictions. Photos or videos from before your injury or current posts that seem to contradict your claimed limitations can result in a denial of benefits and a struggle to obtain the compensation you deserve. The insurance company will also use any photos, videos or posts to show that you are not severely limited or that you were “enjoying” your time off work and not really injured at all.
What You Can Do to Prevent Social Media Issues
The best way to minimize your risk is to quit using social media in any form during your claim. If you must use social media, taking some simple precautions when using social media can help reduce the risks.
Be selective with your friends and followers. Change your profiles and accounts to be “private,” for your selected group of friends, rather than “public,” viewable to anyone. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know; this can allow an investigator to access information you think is private. You should take this step immediately, and if you don’t know how to do this, ask your family or friends for help. Do not wait.
Use privacy settings, but don’t rely on them. Don’t post anything on your feeds or interact with others’ feeds in a manner that would be embarrassing or harmful if it was to be read into evidence in your workers’ comp claim proceedings; even “private” information can sometimes be accessed or discovered. You should assume that all photos, videos, Tweets, status updates, live feeds, and other content may be seen by the insurance company.
Curate your content. Don’t share anything about your injury with your friends and followers online. Minimize the amount of personalized content you post during the period your workers’ compensation claim is outstanding. For example, instead of posting a live video of your son’s first birthday party, post a photo of him blowing out his candle. Posts that minimize or obscure the extent of your limitations can give the wrong impression to the insurer.
Don’t delete your posts. While you should minimize your ongoing interactions on social media while your workers’ compensation claim is pending, it’s not a good idea to delete posts. This can make it seem like you are hiding something or attempting to obscure the truth.
Using your social media information against you is just another way an insurance company will try to reduce your benefits. You should always assume that the insurance company will have access to all of your social media information and will be able to use it in front of a judge. You can eliminate this by not using social media during your claim or minimize the impact by following the steps above.
If you’ve been injured at work, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can advise you about the best ways to protect your rights as you heal and help you recover the benefits you deserve. Contact the lawyers at the Platt Law Firm today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at our Urbandale, Iowa, offices.