Facebook Can Harm Your Pennsylvania Workers Comp Case

Facebook and other social media can harm your Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case.

In today’s world, it is natural that when something impactful happens in our lives, we want to share that news with friends and family and we do so on Facebook and other social media. However, it is critical for an injured worker to understand that Facebook posts can and will be used against you in a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case.

Insurance companies do background searches on injured workers. They check for previously filed insurance claims and criminal records. More and more commonplace, the insurance companies are also doing a Facebook and social media search. Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judges do admit social media evidence.

What are insurance companies looking for on my Facebook regarding my workers’ compensation case?

When running a social media background search, insurance companies are looking for certain information. These are the common things they are looking for:

  • Whether there is evidence the injuries were not work-related;
  • Whether your injuries are not as serious or severe as you testified to;
  • Whether activity on Facebook shows you are able to work while out of work for the work injury;
  • Whether there may have been some intervening event that caused your symptoms to worsen that are not related to work;
  • Whether there is generally information that can undermine your credibility with the Judge.

You might believe that since your Facebook is set to ‘private’ and that you are protected. You aren’t. Insurance companies have other avenues to access your data. For example, the investigator or adjuster may have mutual friends with you. These friends may make posts or photos about you or tag you. They may access a close friend, family member, or spouse’s Facebook that has information about you on it. Never assume that privacy settings will protect you. Even if you are not particularly active, you still have a social media presence.

Let me use an example of impact. Let’s assume you went camping with family and friends. You are out of work for a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. You hop up in a canoe to have your picture taken, even though you can’t possibly canoe because of your injury. Yet, that photo can be depicted in different ways. You are in the canoe and smiling. How do you think the insurance carrier will view that photo. What story do you think they will tell a Judge?

Information and photos can depict different stories to different sets of eyes. How will the Judge view it? Who knows. Just remember, when it is posted, it is there permanently

What can I do to make sure Facebook does not harm my  workers’ compensation case?

There are a few things you can proactively do to make sure Facebook does not harm your Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case.

First, do not discuss the work injury or your injuries online. Keep that private. Because of simply memory changes or time itself, how you describe your injury or how it occurred may not exactly match what you testified to in your case or what you told the insurance adjuster. That can make you look not credible. I know work injuries can be extremely frustrating. I know being in the workers’ compensation system can be exhausting. I know the temptation is to rant and rave about it. Avoid that temptation.

Second, avoid ‘check-ins’. Just because you are injured does not mean you can’t travel. You go on vacation but can’t actively participate in most activities due to pain. However, an insurance carrier does not know that. All they see is the fact you check-in at the beach. They assume you had a great time! Likewise, if you are regularly “checking in” to restaurants or other locations, the insurance company may assume that if you can lead a normal life with your injury you can also work. You may have attended a party and may have left early due to pain, but a check-in or photo does not depict that you left early. It’s up to interpretation.

Third, do not let friends and family tag you in posts and photos. Just because your Facebook may be private does not mean their Facebook is private.

Fourth, do not delete anything already posted. That can be considered destruction of evidence.

Fifth, check your privacy settings. Heighten them during you injury to the highest levels.

Sixth, do yourself a favor, after the occurrence of a work injury and until your case is over, avoid posting on social media at all. Advise friends and family not to tag you. Don’t talk to co-workers via Facebook, social media, text, or email.

Final Thoughts on Facebook and Workers’ Compensation

Remember, information and photos on Facebook are not private. Once you post, share, tag or text, it can never be taken back or deleted- it’s out there waiting to be discovered.

Social media websites make it easier for us to share the details of our lives with others. One click and we can share anything and everything. We can post posts, photos and videos. It is the way of the modern era. While most of these photos are just a simple ways to share our lives with our friends and family, they can also cause legal problems with your case.

The main point of this article is to exercise precaution. It is very simple for an insurance company to turn something innocent into a significant credibility issue in your case. By taking the steps listed above, this can be avoided. Always remember, just like you may be put under physical surveillance, you will also likely be put under online surveillance.

If you have been injured at work and have a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case, contact Mooney law today for a FREE consultation.  We are trusted, proven, and experienced in protecting and fighting for workers’ compensation benefits.  Call today at 717-200-HELP or 833-MOONEYLAW.  You can also email our firm at info@mooney4law.com.  You can also visit my firm’s website.

Mark Buterbaugh

Attorney representing injured workers and Social Security Disability clients in Pennsylvania and Maryland.