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Facebook May Not Be a "Friend"

If you have a computer, there is a good chance that you engage in some form of online social networking—Facebook, Myspace, Twitter…. Nearly 50 percent of the nation’s adult population has a profile on either Myspace or Facebook.

But, did you know that status updates, photos, comments and posts on “virtual media” outlets can all influence the outcome of a Workers’ Compensation or Personal Injury case?  Obtaining information about a party from social networking sites has become a practice increasingly used by attorneys and investigators as part of gathering evidence for a case.  Traditionally, an insurance company hired a personal investigator to videotape a claimant in his/her daily activities.  These days with the abundance of online communities, anybody can find out a wealth of personal information about an individual at no cost and with the ease of a click of the mouse. 

Even seemingly innocent or innocuous sharing of the details of your life can be a source of evidence.  You could be offering your habits and activities to people who do not have your best interests at heart.   Postings can become relevant on issues such as your ability to work, your mental status, income or the gathering of witnesses.  Postings about planned activities and locations can assist investigators in video surveillance. 

Recently a woman in Canada was on disability leave from her employer for depression.   The insurance company cut off her benefits after finding pictures on her Facebook profile of her partying at a birthday celebration and on a holiday.  There are several other cases nationwide in which insurance companies have used information obtained online as evidence in trying to prove the claim for benefits was not justified and, in some cases, have pursued criminal fraud charges against the claimant.     

Even though you may think what you post on social media sites is private, it may not be.  If the investigator can’t access the site because of privacy settings, companies may still have to provide confidential information in response to a subpoena.  At this time the law is wide open; the Workers’ Compensation arena in particular has become fertile testing ground given the limited rules of evidence and discretion given to judges.

As technology has increasingly connected the world we live in, it is important to be aware of the impact and effect information shared on social networking sites can have on your Workers’ Compensation and/or Personal Injury case.

If you would like to speak with an attorney about your legal options, please call us at 213-739-7000.



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