We have long advised clients that participating in social media like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter while on claim or in litigation for a long term disability insurance claim can have serious repercussions.
A decision before a federal judge in a case concerning Social Security disability benefits turned on the plaintiff’s profile photo on her Facebook page. The judge became skeptical about her claim that she could not work because of asthma after seeing her Facebook photo, where she appears to be smoking. A scathing footnote in the opinion Purvis v. Commissioner of Social Sec., 2011 WL 741234 (D.N.J., Feb. 23, 2011), tells the entire story:
Although the Court remands the ALJ’s decision for a more detailed finding, it notes that in the course of its own research, it discovered one profile picture on what is believed to be Plaintiff’s Facebook page where she appears to be smoking. Profile Pictures by Theresa Purvis, Facebook, [link omitted because it’s broken] (last visited Feb. 16, 2011). If accurately depicted, Plaintiff’s credibility is justifiably suspect.
Add judges to the list of people, including insurance adjusters, private investigators, and lawyers who are using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to find out anything and everything they can about plaintiffs. If you live even a small portion of your life online, then consider all of your activities, habits and lifestyle choices fair game. Our advice: don’t hand your adversaries evidence that can and will be used against you.