A look at social networking and how it changes the way an employer can spy on injured workers.
For years insurance companies have hired private investigators to follow injured people and record their daily activities. They do this in the hopes of catching a moment in the injured worker’s life that does not accurately portray their actual disability and use that to justify stopping the payment of weekly benefits or lower jury awards. In most instances, photographs or surveillance videos show some injured worker mowing his lawn, carrying groceries, or picking up a child. It’s important to remember that these photographs will not explain the circumstances of the activity caught on film. There will be no caption stating “petitioner lifting child who was about to run into the middle of the street.” The activity shown may not even exceed the doctor’s restrictions, but will still be used against the injured worker. Private investigators have legal limitations they must follow. They cannot legally go onto private property and they cannot speak to you if you have an attorney. Despite these protections, injured workers have been unknowingly letting investigators into their private lives. They give their employer and insurance companies a direct view into their private lives through their online communications. Technology has changed the way we communicate and obtain information. We live in a world where people communicate by posting comments or pictures on their favorite online network or send a short Tweet to inform all their friends about all of their activities. Traditional social networks have expanded from a few dozen acquaintances to hundreds of friends, friends of friends, and now coworkers, employers, and others who want to check up on you activities. A picture speaks a thousand words. Sometimes, that picture or post tells an entirely different story than what really happened. It is becoming increasingly easier for anyone to gain access to your personal information and that information may be admissible as evidence in a hearing to determine if you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits or before a jury to limit a personal injury award. Do not put yourself in the position where you need to explain your postings. Do not assist the insurance company in minimizing or defeating your claim for benefits. Be aware that the information you put out on social media may not be private.