Long-Term Disability and Your Social Media
April 18, 2022
You’ve worked hard your whole life only to find yourself injured or permanently disabled due to a medical condition. If you made the decision to sign up for long-term disability insurance at your work, you should be looking at a benefits package that will protect your income for the duration of your disability.
Unfortunately, these claims are frequently denied by providers if you don’t have enough supporting documentation or if they think you’re exaggerating the severity of your condition. One of the most pernicious ways they go about obtaining evidence is by combing through your social media accounts.
If you’re concerned that your long-term disability claim will be denied, call us today at R Willson Jenkins PC to speak with an attorney who can help. We’re proud to serve clients in and around Florence, Alabama, as well as Tuscumbia, Sheffield, and Muscle Shoals.
Surveillance and Long-Term Disability Claims
It’s completely legal for insurance providers to use surveillance tactics to gather information about a claimant, and this is seen most frequently in the field of long-term disability. In some cases, this is a necessary method for collecting data on someone who is deliberately misrepresenting their condition. The resulting evidence may prove that the individual is not actually disabled. However, in too many other cases, this “evidence” is taken entirely out of context and is used as a “gotcha” moment to deny a claim for someone who is really struggling.
These operations must be done in public spaces where a person has no "reasonable expectation of privacy," and in today’s digital age, this has morphed into online surveillance through social media accounts like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. Because many of these accounts are technically “public,” insurance companies are able to search through them and look for documentation that can support their case (and deny your claim). This process is also much cheaper and faster than traditional methods of physically following a person and taking photos or videos of them.
What They Look For
While it may seem invasive, unfair, or deceitful, online surveillance and long-term disability claims are here to stay, so you need to know what to look out for. There are three main ways that insurance companies will try to use your social media presence against you:
To show you’re not as physically limited as you say: Many people like to put their best face forward when posting on social media, and your pictures might not always reflect what “everyday” life is like for you.
For example, let’s say you have a medical condition that makes it very hard for you to walk and stand for more than 15 minutes at a time, but you’ve agreed to be a bridesmaid at your sister’s wedding. The photographer will naturally be taking photos of the event that will likely be widely shared on social media. There may be photos of you standing, dancing, smiling, and having a good time, but what they don’t show is that for the majority of the wedding, you were sitting and in a considerable amount of pain. An insurance company might use these photos as “proof” that you’re physically able to do things you claim you can’t.
To prove you can work: If you’re like many professionals, at some point in life you’ve made a LinkedIn account and probably haven’t looked at it for a while. It’s common on sites like this to inflate your skillset or work experience and also to list your status as “open to work.” Be careful of leaving this up if you’re filing for disability insurance as they can use it against you to “prove” you’re actually able to work when you say you can’t.
To show you’re not as mentally limited as you say: A lot of mental, physical, and cognitive disabilities can be invisible to those around you. Maybe your condition leaves you unable to leave your house and too overwhelmed to interact socially with anyone, but on your Facebook page, you post a picture of yourself smiling saying, “Feeling good today.” After all, you don’t want to broadcast to all your friends and family that you can barely get out of bed. Insurance companies may try to use this as evidence that you’re faking your condition.
Steps to Take to Protect Yourself
The best thing you can do to protect yourself from this kind of online surveillance is to quit social media altogether, but we know that’s not always feasible. The next best thing you can do is check that all your privacy settings are set to “friends only.” Insurance companies can only use information that’s publicly available to them, so limiting who has access can help.
However, sometimes insurance companies will go so far as to friend request you using another name to gain access to your content. Don’t ever accept someone as a friend unless you actually know them. Lastly, while you’re in the middle of your claim, ask friends and family to refrain from posting any pictures or status updates that could be misconstrued.
How Legal Counsel Can Help
If you’ve recently been denied a disability claim that you feel was unwarranted, or if you need to file a claim and would like help, call R Willson Jenkins PC. If you’re disabled, you deserve to get the care and compensation you deserve without worrying about your claim being denied because of a picture you’ve posted to Facebook. If you’re in the Florence, Alabama, area and would like to speak to a long-term disability attorney, contact R Willson Jenkins PC today.