The Dangers of Social Media and Disability Insurance Claims
Author: Attorney Stephen Jessup
It is without question that we live in a world that is often driven by social media. For a multitude of reasons people are becoming increasingly more willing to make what used to be private facets of their lives open to the public. Often the information being shared projects an image of what we want people to see as opposed to the burdens and hardships just below the surface. With the prevalence of social media this scenario can have disastrous effects for people who are on short or long term disability insurance claims- be it under employer provided ERISA governed disability policies or individually purchased disability policies.
Regardless the nature of your policy or claim there is one certainty- your disability insurance company will be searching social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. to gather additional information for review as part of its determination of your eligibility for ongoing benefits under a disability insurance policy. At Dell & Schaefer we are seeing a noticeable increase in denials of benefits, which reference information an insurance company found on a claimant’s social media account. As the vast majority of disability insurance denials are under employer provided policies governed by ERISA, the information being gathered from social media is especially harmful as the appearance of impropriety is often hard to separate yourself from. A person’s doctors may provide evidence and opinion as to the inability to work; a claimant can provide detailed narratives of restrictions and limitations related to the ability to work or even day to day activities- but all of that can be compromised by a simple Facebook search that shows pictures of people engaged in activities that an insured and his/her doctors have indicated the inability to do. The insurance companies will give a great deal of weight to physical visual proof and evidence of activity as opposed to what they are told by an insured or doctor. In a way these social media findings are the “new” video surveillance and are typically far more damaging than video surveillance.
What can you do to lessen the scrutiny of insurance companies into your daily life?
To be clear, we are certainly not saying that a person cannot have a social life or that what is found on social media pages is a complete picture of one’s physical, emotional or mental abilities- but we are warning you that the adage of appearance is everything rings very true with social media posts. The easiest step you can take to guard yourself from an insurance company viewing your accounts is to ensure you have proper privacy settings in place. Additionally, for social media accounts driven by Followers such as Twitter and Instagram be cognizant of the people you allow to follow you and the information you broadcast. Finally, the most applicable suggestion, before you post pictures or updates consider how these posts will be perceived, especially by your disability insurance carrier.