Social networking sites warning to injured workers
Particularly in cases where an injured worker files a lawsuit (i.e. serious injury certificate, common law damages claim, any form of legal proceedings), the defence (lawyers, PIs etc) insurance companies hunt these injured workers down on the internet like criminals.
The injured workers’ fun, fellowship, and joy of connecting with others through for example Facebook and Twitter; is instantly smashed to pieces when they find out they are being spied on.
For those who still don’t believe social networking sites, including ‘private, secure’ forums are as dangerous as we claim, here is a warning letter written by a lawyer highlighting these real dangers. This lawyer sends this warning letter to all his/her clients (injured workers) and asks them to sign the letter.
Social networking warning letter
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES
Dear Client (= Injured Worker):
If you belong to a public social networking account such as FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Forum, Google, etc., we STRONGLY recommend that you close it until your case is completely over.
If you choose not to close your accounts, we warn you to use great caution.
Whatever you write or post, or have written or posted, will probably fall into the hands of the defence lawyers (=lawyers who work for the workcover authority/insurance) or [workcover] insurance company.
It is now standard practice for them to run computer searches and investigations to obtain information about your personal life. They will try to obtain it without your knowledge or permission.
Increasingly, and in some cases, they will demand that you provide them with your account passwords. They may also ask the court to order release of your password information.
These sites are open to the public. The law is unclear if or to what extent privacy laws apply.
Our best advice is that you take down your sites until your case is over.
We understand you may decide to keep your site(s). If so, we make the following specific recommendations:
- Allow anyone to become a “friend” on a website like Facebook (or forum) unless you are absolutely sure you know that person.
- Post any photographs or video of yourself (or enable others to “tag” you)
- Write or disclose anything about your personal life that you would be embarrassed to have a defence lawyer use against you in front of a judge and/or jury
- Send e-mails regarding your case to anyone except your lawyer(s)
- Send texts regarding your case to anyone except your lawyer(s)
- Enter (workcover) insurance websites
- Participate in forums, chat-rooms, or message boards
We have seen an increase in electronic surveillance of these types of accounts and sites by [workcover] insurance companies, investigators, and defence lawyers.
They hope to discover information to embarrass, humiliate or hurt you. They will look for pictures or comments by you or your friends that they can take out of context to prove that your injury is exaggerated or false.
We have seen innocent, harmless joking between private “Friends,” used and distorted by [workcover] insurance companies to try to convince a judge and jury that a plaintiff is dishonest.
Be aware that the insurance companies may even ask the court to order release of all information contained within your home computers and laptop hard drives regarding the issues we have discussed above.
We have seen insurance companies subpoena cell phone records to obtain transcripts from texting. We have seen them subpoena Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites.
Finally, [our law firm] and its staff members do use social media. Our policy is not to “friend” our clients (=injured workers) until the legal case has concluded. This is because we are in a Lawyer-Client relationship with you and need to establish clear boundaries to protect this relationship for so long as your case is active.
[If you have any questions or concerns about this, do not hesitate to contact our office.]
Very truly yours,
I have read this letter and understand that it is important for my case to follow my lawyer’s advice and take down my social network sites. I understand that if I choose to keep my sites, I must not post anything on them that may be used against me. I also understand that I should not email or text anyone about this case other than my lawyers.
Client [Name and signature]
Participating on our site— aworkcovervictimsdiary
While we strongly encourage injured/ill workers to comment on posts, articles, or share their stories, we repeatedly warn all injured workers to use a nickname (and not your real name) and to use an alias email address (one created for the purpose). This is so that you can protect your identity and remain anonymous within the context of our most adversarial workcover system (snooping, and even hacking). By the way, we have been told by a lawyer who knows a defence lawyer that workcover insurers ROUTINELY download injured workers’ Facebook sites, as to ‘preserve’ the ‘evidence’ should it be altered later!
We also ask all injured workers who comment or share their stories to do so in a way that they cannot be identified in the real world. That is, do not write anything that could potentially identify you (e.g details of your accident, names of workplace, doctor(s), case manager, dates etc.), consider writing in third party style (a friend of mine…) or even switch gender.
Ever thought why do we take the time and effort to search out our published stories and experiences about Workers Compensation from all around the country? Simply put, we want you to understand that this workcover (aka work-over!) epidemic is a national problem. Workcover insurers (and employers) will simply stoop to the lowest of levels to try to beat an injured worker out of his/her lawfully mandated and guaranteed benefits.
Workcover insurers and employers lose sight of the fact that this safety net was created to catch occupationally injured workers and assist them back to productivity or help them find another vocation (job) where they can support their families once again.
Understand the reality; workcover is no longer about taking care of the injuries of injured workers and getting them back to work as it is supposed to be, it’s about money and power and who has it and who uses it to influence state legislators to do their bidding.
It’s about those who don’t think twice about convoluting and bastardising this system to meet their goals. It’s about unfeeling, uncaring corporate entities who care about only one thing; their financial bottom line.
We have the power to get the truth out there where all can see it. Help us get it where all can see.