While your Facebook status updates and photos are entertaining your friends, they could also be sending the wrong message to insurers and others who may be involved in making decisions effecting personal injury claims or other benefits.
How Social Networking Sites can Affect You
In a widely publicized case last year, a Canadian woman said she lost sick-leave benefits because her insurer saw vacation photos of her on Facebook. The woman was on long-term leave from her job for serious depression. She said her insurance benefit payments stopped suddenly. When she called the company, she was told she was no longer depressed, as evidenced by her Facebook photos from local bars and beaches.
The insurance company, Manulife, refused to comment on the case at the time, but said it would not stop or deny payments based solely on information from Facebook or other social networking sites.
Nearly 500 million people are posting photos, updates and information on Facebook. Though some information is only shared with an approved list of friends, there are various ways for insurance companies, attorneys and government agencies to find and use your Facebook information. Moreover, information on sites such as Twitter is accessible to the public.
A San Francisco attorney recently told a National Public Radio reporter that two-thirds of all lawyers use Facebook to collect information regarding cases. In fact, some attorney's use data found on social networking sites to help screen potential jurors.
In personal injury cases, both sides will investigate the claim and collecting data to build their case. Many attorneys will use Facebook and other social networking sites for information during this investigation. The same may also be true for workers' compensation and government benefits claims. It may be more difficult to prove your Social Security Disability or veterans benefits claim, for a disability, if the other side has collected photos you posted on Facebook that show you engaging in physical activities. It is also important to understand that information you post to a social networking site can be interpreted various ways and something that seemed innocent at the time and have negative impacts when used against you later.
Protect Yourself and Consult with an Attorney
The bottom line for many experts is to avoid posting anything on Facebook or other such sites that you would not want an attorney to see. You can follow more than 30,000 people who have reportedly dropped their Facebook accounts over privacy concerns, but also keep in mind that some of your information may be digitally archived. Moreover, remember that Twitter is not as fleeting as you think; the Library of Congress is archiving tweets.
If you use social networking sites and are concerned that information you have posted may affect your injury claim, speak to a personal injury attorney today. A lawyer can investigate your situation and make recommendations regarding the best way to protect yourself and your family while perusing your disability claim.