Disabled People Risk that Their Actions, Captured on the Internet, Will Undermine The Claim

Insurance companies are more and more using the internet to their advantage. Be careful if you are posting on the internet especially if you have provided your email address to the insurance company providing disability benefits to you. Your activity can easily be tracked on the internet- regarding your shopping, the time you spend on the computer, your interests, and if you sell items on ebay. A Wall Street Journal article recently demonstrated just how damaging a facebook entry can be! Nathalie Blanchard, a Canadian woman on sick leave for major depression lost her benefits after her insurance company, Manulife Financial, used photos that she had posted on her Facebook cite to show that she was overstating her depression. Ms. Blanchard’s photos included her watching a Chippendales bar show, her attending a party and on vacation. Manulife claimed the photos prove that she is no longer depressed. Ms. Blanchard told the Wall Street Journal that her psychiatrist recommended she go on vacation when she feels depressed.
Claimants like Ms. Blanchard should not provide insurance companies easy fodder against them. Facebook pictures pose problems in many contexts because you can be “tagged” in photos you do not even know were taken. Facebook photos often depict someone at their best and yet is only a snapshot in time. How long an individual participated in an activity captured on Facebook is completely hidden from the camera.

It is worrisome that insurance companies are now using the Internet as a new frontier to investigate claimants. The disabled must be careful not to divulge their personal lives in public. Of course, disability does not mean that a claimant must vegetate in a dark room excluded from all forms of human and social activity. Smith v. Califano, 637 F.2d 968, 9971 (3d. Cir. 1981). However, the disabled must be especially careful since even a small amount of activity on the internet may cause an insurance company to jump to conclusions about their level of activity. With must time on your hands, it is better not to reveal too much on the internet.

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