Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why Is My MN Work Comp Adjuster Asking About My Facebook Account?

I have written and lectured about Facebook, Mylife and other forms of social media for years.  More and more often, whether my clients are aware of it or not, insurance adjusters, employers and insurance company lawyers are looking you up on Facebook.

I had a client in my office today and I asked her how her ski trip was this weekend and she looked at me wondering how in the world I knew her family went skiing.  I turned my computer around and showed her pictures from her Facebook, her husband's Facebook and her childrens' Facebook accounts.  Now the pictures didn't show my client skiing or failing to follow her restrictions, but I got my client's attention.  Facebook is often better than surveillance videos because you and your friends are posting the pictures and photographs rather than a creepy investigator.

Can a Minnesota workers compensation judge allow the admission of photographs from your Facebook account?  There are no appealate decisions to guide us at this point but let me share with you what a workers compensation judge in another state recently did.

An Arkansas workers compensation appeals court ruled that photos on Facebook and Myspace of a man “drinking and partying” could be used as evidence to deny him further workers compensation claims.  At the center of the suit is  Zackery Clement, who suffered a hernia on March 12, 2009 after a refrigerator fell on him while on the job at Johnson’s Warehouse Showroom in Pine Bluff,  Ark.  Keep in mind this was an admitted work injury.  Clement, who was compensated for medical expenses and received temporary total-disability benefits for more than a year, was seeking an extension of benefits following three surgeries as a result of the injury.

In an opinion, written by Judge David M. Glover, the Arkansas Court of Appeals states: “We find no abuse of discretion in the allowance of photographs. Clement contended that he was in excruciating pain, but these pictures show him drinking and partying.”

The lesson to be learned is NEVER EVER lie.  If your doctor tells you NOT to perform certain activites be sure to testify truthfully if you disobey your doctor.  We all want to live our lives and share activities with our loved ones and families.  Just don't exaggerate or lie about your symptoms or ability to perform non work activities.  When you have a serious work related injury doing so will often result in consequences such as slower recoveries or increased pain.  My suggestion is that you "lock down" you Facebook or turn it off.  You will be shocked by the extra time you have when you don't need to be updating your status, location or activities every few minutes.

If you have sustained a work related injury and have questions or concerns about your claim, Atkinson Law Office and Minnesota Disability offer free consultations at suburban office locations with free parking, hot coffee, cold beverages and a staff with decades of experience handling Minnesota workers compensation cases. Call our office today at 651-333-3636 for a free consultation and feel free to visit our website for additional information regarding your Minnesota Workers Compensation injury.