Workers’ compensation fraud costs an estimated $7.2 billion a year, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Therefore, insurance companies look for ways to prevent workers’ compensation fraud.
Insurance companies have two powerful tools in their arsenal to fight insurance fraud – Surveillance and Social Media.
Insurance companies regularly hire private investigators to sit and watch someone who has claimed workers’ compensation benefits. These investigators often spend hours, even days, watching an individual, hoping that they will catch the person performing an activity which contradicts his or her injury claim. Private investigators observe claimants outside of their homes, in their vehicles, at the grocery store and on other personal errands. By the time the investigator is finished surveilling a claimant, the investigator knows the person’s routine and all activities they have performed for days and even weeks.
If the investigator documents that the claimant is able to perform activities which demonstrate that the individual is not injured or disabled as they are claiming, then the insurance company has important evidence to counter a workers’ compensation claim. Often times, the insurance company will show the surveillance footage to the injured worker’s treating physician, and ask the physician to release the individual back to work without any restrictions on activity based on the fact that they were able to perform the activity caught on surveillance.
Conducting surveillance is perfectly legal, so long as the person under surveillance is out in the open and has no expectation of privacy. This is big business for investigators and it saves insurance companies millions of dollars in unpaid benefits.
Insurance companies and attorneys spend a lot of time researching individuals who claim they were injured on the job. They almost always conduct an Internet search and Google the person claiming workers’ compensation benefits. In today’s world, social media often provides a rich source of material on people claiming workers’ compensation benefits – everything from photos identifying how the injured worker looks and what kind of car the injured worker drives-helpful information for an investigator to know who to follow and watch, to photos documenting what activities and hobbies the injured worker engages in, whether the injured worker is able to travel, whether the injured worker works out, or smokes cigarettes or drinks alcohol. The insurance companies will spend hours looking at photos and any other posts on social media made by individuals claiming workers’ compensation benefits.
Courts have generally held that social media is discoverable evidence if reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of information bearing on the claim at issue. This means that judges usually allow the evidence gathered from people’s social media pages. Furthermore, courts have consistently held that by sharing social media content with others – even with only a limited, small group of friends – an injured worker has no objectively reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to that content. Therefore, if there are pictures posted on social media which demonstrates that someone claiming workers’ compensation benefits is not injured or disabled, then that picture will generally be allowed into evidence for a judge to consider. This evidence could be extremely detrimental to an injured worker’s case.
The bottom line is that you need to be honest about your injuries and your disability!