Recent news stories have highlighted awareness of the dangers of digital data being exposed after breaches of security. Digital data is not only exposed after breaches in security, such data can be exposed by an individual posting information that adversely affects their claim for workers’ compensation benefits in New Jersey. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled on June 25, 2014 that police need a warrant to search information on an arrestee’s mobile phone, acknowledging the fact that for many of us our cell phones hold a “digital record of nearly every aspect of their life.” So you might wonder how the digital age and social media have affected injured workers in New Jersey. While an injured workers’ cell phone cannot be searched by an employer after an injury, the postings of an injured worker on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can be discoverable and might cause more problems than the worker can imagine. For example, think about the situation where an injured worker tells a treating doctor that he or she cannot do certain activities because of their work injury, and then that person posts pictures of their leisure activities on Facebook. An employer or insurance company attorney might see a posting of an employee running/walking a charity race, or on a boating trip for example. If an injured worker tells their doctor that they cannot do certain activities they should not be doing those activities; and if they try on occasion, they should remember that pictures of those activities might end up on discoverable social media. In the age of GOOGLE, so many of our leisure activities can be captured and saved for all to view.
You might ask how an injured worker’s postings on the internet can adversely affect that employee. There are clear provisions against fraud in the workers’ compensation Statute. The four instances below outline the types of fraud that are actionable under the law. Fraud is called into question when an employee:
- 1) misrepresents his / her job status while collecting temporary disability benefits
- 2) files a claim for an injury that did not occur on the job
- 3) knowingly misrepresents his / her physical condition to obtain WC benefits
- 4) misrepresents previous trauma or treatment
It is easy to imagine how a workers’ compensation carrier can twist innocent postings on social media to fit the fraud requirement above, even if no real fraud is involved. Therefore it is imperative that injured workers who have filed workers’ compensation claims be cognizant of the down side of posting their activities on social media. Please contact Stark & Stark if you have any questions about Workers’ Compensation Law