Facebook has over 1 billion, yes billion with a B, users worldwide. Chances are you are on Facebook and have plenty of friends and family whom you share information with on a daily basis. People love to share lots of things on Facebook, such as pictures of their adorable children, a latest culinary creation, funny animal cartoons or pictures, political rants or even just what they may be doing right now. For workers compensation claimants, especially those not as hurt or disabled as they have been claiming to be, a “like” or “share” could be the difference in their case.
Take, for example, the cases of Zackery Clement and Kristi Denise Motty, two workers compensation claimants that had their claims severely impacted by their Facebook activity. As someone who represents plenty of truly injured workers, I present these cases as a black eye on the true nature of the struggles of truthfully injured workers.
Mr. Clement was injured while moving a refrigerator suffered a hernia, and underwent three surgeries. He received medical benefits and temporary total-disability benefits for over a year. It wasn’t until he sought an extension of those benefits, that his Facebook account was his undoing.
Relying in part on photographs taken from Clement’s Facebook account, the workers compensation judge, and ultimately the appeal board, denied the extension of benefits he was seeking because of “excruciating pain.” You see, rather than posting a picture of a recent version of a Sweet Brown video, or even his most recent accomplish on Farmville, Mr. Clement was posting pictures of him and his boys throwing back a few cold Miller Lites, and this did not sit well with the court.
After losing before the workers compensation judge, Clement filed an appeal and sought to have the photographs. The case proceeded to the Arkansas Court of Appeals. In ruling in favor of allowing the use of Facebook photos as evidence, Judge David M. Glover stated: “We find no abuse of discretion in the allowance of photographs. Clement contended that he was in excruciating pain, but these pictures show him drinking and partying.”
Ms. Motty’s case didn’t involve Miller Lites, but she did ultimately get convicted of workers compensation insurance fraud following a two day trial. Her problem wasn’t the content that was posted as much as it may have been the quantity of her Facebook posts. According to Motty “it was impossible to write or type” and her pain from doing so was “excruciating.” However, during the time that she was off from work because of her work injury, Motty had updated her profile almost 200 times. These Facebook updates, as well as additional surveillance evidence of her texting on her phone and carrying heavy groceries among other things lead to her conviction.
The moral of the story is not that workers compensation claimants should be prevented from enjoying their time on Facebook or other social media sites; it is just that if you are alleging you are more hurt than you actually are don’t flaunt it online. There are many truly injured workers who must face additional scrutiny because of the likes of Clement and Motty and their daily struggles are completely undermined by those who try to flaunt the workers compensation system.