Social Media in Massachusetts Workers' Compensation ClaimsWhen a worker is injured on the job in Massachusetts, the workers’ compensation insurance companies do not always make it easy to obtain the benefits they deserve. Sometimes, workers will receive benefits after being injured at work. Other times, however, the insurance companies may refuse to pay benefits. Either way, at some point in time, they will look for reasons to either deny a claim or, if they have begun making payments, to terminate or modify the payment of benefits.

One tactic insurance companies use is to investigate for evidence they can use against an injured worker. This day and age, the insurance company’s investigation is much easier than just hiring a private investigator to watch or follow an injured employee. The internet and social media can provide fruitful evidence for insurance companies. So, after suffering injuries in a work-related accident in Massachusetts, injured workers should be cautious when posting on social media or online.

How Social Media Posts May be Used Against Injured Workers

After suffering injuries in a work accident, if you don’t think the insurance companies or your employer are searching for you online or on social media, think again. Trust me, if you were hurt at work and are seeking disability and/or other benefits from your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer, the insurance company will be investigating you one way or another.

A workers’ compensation claim in Massachusetts may be impacted by an injured worker’s social media posts. In our experience, insurance companies and even employers may monitor an injured worker's social media activity in attempts to try to collect evidence that they can use to either deny or reduce workers' compensation benefits.

Insurance Companies are Looking for Evidence of Your Activities

In the vast majority of Massachusetts workers’ compensation cases, an injured worker is typically seeking weekly disability benefits from workers’ comp to replace a portion of the wages they cannot earn due to their injuries. In these situations, a worker is claiming that their injuries prevent them from returning to their job to perform their work tasks, duties and responsibilities to earn their wages.

If injured workers post on their social media of themselves engaging in activities that may undermine their claims, it may weaken their case. For example, in a recent case we handled, our client suffered a back injury on the job in Worcester that prevented him from returning to work. The insurance company initially made voluntary payments of weekly temporary total disability benefits. However, prior to the expiration of the payment without prejudice period, they unilaterally terminated the weekly benefits.

It wasn’t until after a claim for benefits was filed and shortly before the scheduled Conference that the insurance company disclosed social media posts that their investigator discovered showing our client participating in some activities that they argued were physically demanding. The posts were of our client riding a motorcycle. They obviously used this evidence to challenge the legitimacy of our client’s claim. Their position was that if our client was able to ride a motorcycle, he could return to work to earn his pay and did not need weekly disability payment from workers’ comp.

While we were ultimately successful in our client’s claim, the social media posts were challenging hurdles to overcome. The Judge awarded only a closed period of temporary total disability benefits and then temporary partial disability benefits after that closed period ended. The social media evidence presented by the insurance company was most likely a major factor in the Judge’s decision.

In other cases, social media posts by injured workers were used by the insurance companies to undermine claims. The social media posts were of innocent and routine activities, such as shopping or attending a birthday party and sporting events. Just because you were hurt on the job and are unable to return to work doesn’t mean your life has to stop. Regardless, activities posted on social media, even if you think they are mundane or harmless, may be misinterpreted or taken out of context by insurance companies and used against you. Therefore, after suffering injuries on the job, you should be cautious of what you post on social media because someone will be watching.

Charles S. Pappas
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Massachusetts injury lawyer & workers' compensation attorney serving accident victims in Webster & Framingham.
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