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Think before You Click; Social Media’s Effect on Our Clients

Russ Haugen

undefinedFacebook has more than one billion active users and adds nearly 600,000 mobile users per day. Twitter has over 500,000,000 active users and 9,100 tweets occur every second. There are over 40 million photos posted per day through Instagram. In the “old days” (prior to the boom in social networking sites), the only way insurance companies were able to find out intimate information about individuals who had a pending workers’ compensation claim or civil lawsuit, was to hire a private investigator to follow the individual around. Now, with the omnipresence of social media outlets, such as Facebook & Twitter, some of the most intimate details about an individual can be derived by a simple online search. Posting a comment on your Facebook page about your recent family vacation or downloading a picture of you playing with your kids may seem innocent and unworthy of scrutiny. However, insurance companies may try to use these pictures or comments against you. When taken out of context, a comment about a recent family vacation or a picture with your child may appear that you aren’t in pain from a recent work injury. However, one comment or one photo doesn’t tell the full truth about the fact that you had to stop every 20 minutes during your trip to rest because sitting too long aggravated your back pain. Or, that the picture of your child standing next to you doesn’t show that you aren’t able to lift her because of your recent work injury.

However, this doesn’t mean that one should go online in an attempt to cancel accounts, delete photos, and erase postings. Not only will it likely be ineffective, it could also create bigger legal problems. If an individual has a pending lawsuit (workers’ compensation claim or civil lawsuit), an attempt to delete or erase content that has been posted online could be considered spoliation of evidence. Spoliation of evidence is the failure to adequately preserve evidence that could potentially be related to the pending claim. A claim of spoliation of evidence can lead to various sanctions, including fines, barring of claims, and contempt findings. In today’s world of social media, strangers can find out personal information about you with a click of a button. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you are very careful with the things you post online. It’s also equally important to know the things that your family and friends post about you. Whether it’s a comment you post or a photo of you posted by a close friend, it is important to realize that social media is another source of information that insurance companies and their attorneys are looking at in an attempt to dispute and deny benefits.

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