Social media has become a prominent part of many people’s lives. We use it to keep up with our friends and relatives, to share the things we like, to discuss our political and religious views, and to share photos and information about our everyday activities or the more exciting parts of our lives. Yet, if you are seeking workers’ compensation in California or if you are trying to get or keep disability benefits, then you might be surprised to learn that your use of social media accounts could have a tremendous impact on your case.
How Your Social Media Posts Can Be Used Against You
Depending on how you use your social media accounts, any posts that you make could be used against you when you are seeking to get or keep your workers’ compensation or disability benefits. Your employer’s and their workers’ compensation insurance provider attorneys will certainly be looking at these accounts to see if there is any evidence that you are lying about or exaggerating your injuries and impairments. They can even check them to see if your medical condition has improved over time and if your benefits should be stopped.
Some common ways that social media posts can be used against you include finding posts that indicate that your injury was caused or made worse by some other activity, that it happened earlier or later than you claim it did, or that you are fully capable of working because you are clearly capable of engaging in other physical activities. You might even leave evidence on your Facebook timeline or other accounts that you are working a side job.
You might not think it matters, if you make a bit of extra money babysitting (for example), but it could be used to demonstrate that you are, in fact, capable of performing some kind of work. This is true even if you only do it once in a while, and it isn’t regular work.
It shows that you are capable of doing something, which could either prevent you from receiving workers’ comp or disability benefits or minimize what you are able to receive. If you are found to be intentionally misrepresenting your injuries, then it could be even worse – you could face criminal charges for fraud.
Case Example of Criminal Charges for Fraud Based on Social Media Posts
While there have been many situations where people have been denied for workers’ compensation benefits because of something that they posted on a social media account, the worst case scenario is illustrated in the case of Ronald Fortune in 2014.
Ronald Fortune was a 36-year-old package handler for a company called Golden State Overnight. He filed for workers’ compensation when he claimed to have experienced a workplace injury. The workers’ compensation insurance claims adjuster was conducting research to establish whether or not he had a claim and the value of that claim when they stumbled across an important post on one of his social media accounts.
It didn’t even require a lot of digging to find it since the post was public, and there was no need to request or order that he provide his social media log in information. The insurance claims adjuster just had to take one look at Ronald’s Facebook page to get a reasonable cause to further investigate the legitimacy of his claim.
Before we tell you what he posted, let’s look at the outcome and consequences that Ronald Fortune faced. He was taken to court by the workers’ compensation insurance company, accused of felony perjury, and ultimately plead guilty and was ordered to pay nearly $13K. He was also ordered to complete 400 hours of community service. So, what could he have posted that was so bad for his case and actually led to felony charges against him for fraud?
Ronald Fortune liked to bowl. A single public post about his bowling stats, around the time when he should have been unable to bowl because of his alleged injury, is all that it took to launch a more serious investigation. This investigation led to further evidence, in video footage, of Fortune bowling and not appearing to be injured at all. While Ronald Fortune was receiving workers’ compensation benefits, he was using his time off of work to bowl with his friends. Yet, he testified that he had not actually bowled during that time, his injury being too severe.
While this is a case of direct and intentional fraud, it could happen just as easily with someone who is legitimately injured but engages in any activity which might indicate that they are not. We used the example of babysitting, above, and this is a good example of how someone might do something that they think is innocent, but not realize that the workers’ compensation insurance provider could easily use it against them.
Is Social Media Evidence Enough to Harm Your Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Some mistakenly believe that social media posts are not enough to harm their workers’ compensation claim or even the disability benefits that they already receive. In the case of Ronal Fortune, there was an investigation launched based on his social media posts, so that they ended up with additional evidence (the video footage) to prove that he was not really injured. Yet, even if they had no other evidence, the social media post alone would have harmed his claim and proven that he was lying about or exaggerating his injuries.
For another example, there was a woman who had been receiving workers’ compensation disability benefits for some time. When the insurance claims adjuster took one look at her Facebook profile, they saw photos and posts about her exercise routine. They further found plenty of evidence that she had started a business, something that she was probably posting about to further improve the success of that business.
All of this evidence didn’t lead to criminal charges of fraud in this case because there was no evidence to indicate that she had ever intentionally lied about her injuries. However, it quickly put a halt to her benefits, and she was no longer considered to be disabled, with the available evidence that she had recovered enough to be physically active and to pursue other income.
In these cases, the information was made public, so it was not at all difficult for the insurance companies to find out more than the people would have wished them to know. You might think that if you keep your information and posts private that this will prevent anything you post from being seen or investigated. This is not the case. Anything you post on social media is considered to be the property of the social media company, and even private posts can be used against you. Furthermore, your friends and family might make posts that involve you, and this can also be detrimental to your workers’ compensation or disability claim.
Advice from An Attorney
The experienced work injury claim attorneys in California at The Sargent Firm Injury Lawyers suggest that you completely avoid social media, and perhaps even deactivate your accounts when you are pursuing workers’ compensation benefits. Even an innocent post could be used against you as an indication that you are capable of more than you say. In the worst cases, you could be accused of fraud. Contact The Sargent Firm Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation and get more advice about your compensation claim.