We live in an interconnected world. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, MySpace, personal web pages, blogging, Foursquare, or whatever else lies in the future, it all makes for a source of evidence for the claims adjuster to dig up some dirt on a questionable claim.
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But how can the adjusters use evidence in social media to their advantage? Obviously the first answer is to gather evidence that may contradict the level of disability claimed by the plaintiff in a workers comp case. But even when evidence is found, it is not always helpful to the defense of a case. It can depend on where it is found, what site it is found on, when it was posted, and what the actual activity may have been.
It seems everyone has a Facebook page these days to stay in contact with friends, family, groups, hobbyists, and more. So what are some red flags for the claims adjuster?
The first clue for and adjuster is to look for a Facebook page. If it is not blocked or marked private, this can be used in several ways. People typically will give statements about daily activities, sometimes multiple times per day, all while posting pictures, giving locations, and talking about life in general.
For example, if the claimant is stating to be totally disabled, but there are several dates of them posting pictures to their Facebook page out running errands, fishing, going to music concerts, etc., then there several defenses to shoot disability claims down. If the case goes to litigation, this may or may not help, but it certainly will raise the question of doubt against the claimant statements. It is not an air-tight case since anyone can type anything in as a Facebook “status”, but it can certainly help begin a surveillance quest.
A more concise version of Facebook, Twitter has become more and more popular. It is also used to give updates on whatever it is happening at the present time. One can post pictures of activities or events, and if the claimant is posting pictures of going to see music concerts or anything active, it is recommended to use surveillance to find out what the claimant is up to, if anything.
Dubbed the “Facebook for photographers” Instagram started off as a place where photographers could view other photographer’s pictures, and give advice or a general critique of whatever picture was posted. This is used similarly to Facebook and Twitter, where you can gather picture proof evidence of whatever the subject is posting, and this evidence should be used to start surveillance. Any activity that goes against what the claimant is reporting is always a good start to an investigation of a questionable claim for disability or workers compensation.
Evidence can be anything physically active. For example, if the claimant goes on vacation and posts several photos of a trip, obviously the claimant was healthy enough to go on this trip and to be active while on it, which could be the opposite of whatever was reported to the employer, claims adjuster, or the doctor.
This service is not exactly the same as those listed above, but it may be a start. If the claimant is listed as belonging to several physical, active groups, it may lead to more evidence. An adjuster really only knows as much about the claimant as they are willing to tell, and whatever else can be uncovered through investigation. However, each fact found can lead to bigger and better evidence that can help the case.
This is similar to Facebook, but not as popular. However, past posts on MySpace can lead to gathering more evidence. If you strike out on finding pages relative to the claimant, but their MySpace page talks about restoring old cars and racing them at the local track, this is a starting point.
Personal Web Pages
A lot of people have their own web pages, where they post material about anything they want. Through a Google search, it is simple to find a personal web page to check every now and then for some helpful evidence. Again the adjustor should be looking for concrete evidence that shows the claimant is being more active than claimed.
Just like with a personal website, a Blog can be a page where a person talks about their personal daily life. This may not be substantial evidence, but it can be used to start an investigation.
This is used to “check-in” at certain locations, telling others what you are doing. If a person is very active on this website, use it to connect the dots on daily activity. It can also be used to tip off the adjuster on places the claimant visits regularly. It may not be fantastic evidence alone, but pair it up with good surveillance, and it can provide a step by step rundown of the claimants activities.
Social media evidence of activity alone may not be enough to really swing the case, but it can be used to kick start a formal surveillance investigation. If surveillance footage of gainful activity is obtained and combined with the internet evidence of activity, the claimant will have a hard time continuing to claim a level of disability on questionable workers comp cases.
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Contact: Mstack@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
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