A career-ending long-term disability (LTD) can be among the most devastating events in life. It doesn’t help when you’re denied the disability insurance payments you are owed. You, like most people, may like to share your life online. Social media enables us to connect with others across vast distances, or even with those nearby who we may simply not see as often as we’d like. However, the use of social media is not without its risks.
You may be aware that you shouldn’t divulge too much personal information in your online posts. You don’t want to run the risk of having your identity stolen or your home burglarized while you’re out of town. However, you may not have given much thought to how your social media posts could impact your long-term disability claim. They can easily use your social media against you, but only if you let them.
Social media gives excuses to deny long term disability
When seeking long-term disability benefits, most people want to know all the reasons why claims get denied, so they can avoid those mistakes and ensure that they get the benefits they need. While most of this inquiry is focused on the documents involved with the claim and the supporting medical documents, there is one area of concern that is completely outside of the benefits process.
If an insurance carrier has anything it can use to claim that you are not truly disabled and you are capable of working, it may deny your claim. It is important to note that this information can come from many different sources.
Your online presence
Some of the most common places insurance companies look to disprove that you are disabled is on the social media sites most people use every day: Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, etc. The insurance company is looking for any evidence that you are engaged in an activity that is inconsistent with the restrictions you suffer from due to your disability.
On these sites, insurance carriers can find evidence of:
- Your physical condition: If you are claiming disability due to an inability to walk, for example, online photos of you hiking in the woods or climbing in a mountain would be positive proof that you are healthy enough for work.
- Your emotional health: Many disability claims involve emotional or psychological illnesses rather than those that are physical. For example, if you are claiming a debilitating depression, photos of you having a great time dancing and laughing with your friends could undermine this claim. Although there is more gray area in psychological disabilities than in the physical ones, social media posts could still undermine your claim.
- Your ability to perform your duties at work: At the most basic level, if you provide photos and posts that show you have the physical ability to do your job, it would likely result in a denial of your claim, and the insurance company would have a strong case in court.
Although social media involves sharing personal photos and posts that are readily available to the public, people are often surprised that an insurance company could use this information to deny claims. Social media posts – even those marked as “private” – can often be obtained by anyone. These posts are usually time stamped, as well, giving solid physical evidence or your activities, thoughts and feelings at specific times.
Companies said to be skilled and bold
A disability insurance company wanting to deny or terminate your LTD claim may try to make you look as if you’re not really disabled or not as disabled as you say. A columnist for Plaintiff Magazine and specialist in the area asserts that LTD carriers depend on social media and have learned every trick possible to exploit whatever they can find out about you.
They’re skilled and practiced at determining the date and time you deleted something from the internet and exactly what the post said or showed. According to the columnist, they’re willing and able to use social media accounts to guess where you are or will be. And they may show up with cameras.
Tactics can be surprising, misleading and hard to counter
Almost anything you do might look like activities “inconsistent with claimed restrictions.” The writer cites a group photo of a family reunion being used to suggest that a disabled salesman could mix and mingle at social events for hours on end.
Even a social media “check in” at a local pool can send investigators to photograph you doing a “workout,” according to the article. Insurance investigators infiltrated one wedding by posing as invited guests.
Ways to counter the snooping
With so much at stake, it’s wise to consult a qualified and experienced long term disability attorney to help you develop a plan for your activities, both on and off social media. It will likely include consistent (offline) documentation of your activities with clear and detailed narratives of your medical condition, its physical and mental effects, and the nature and reasons for your activities. This can help put your life activities in perspective for the insurance company on possibly court – if it comes to that. It’s also wise to have and scrupulously follow a well-developed plan for your social media and other online activities.
Do you have to give up social media entirely?
It’s unrealistic to expect people to give up their entire online presence. However, you should be extra cautious if you’re receiving long-term disability benefits or are making a claim for disability benefits. Understand that setting your online accounts to “private” may not be enough to hide your activities from prying eyes. If an insurance provider challenges your claim based on your social media postings, you should consult with a skilled legal professional.
It is critical, if you are seeking long-term disability insurance, to be cautious with your social media posts so that you don’t undermine your own claim.