Friday, May 18, 2012

Social Media: Insurance Adjuster Friend or Foe

With the advancement of smart phones and the iPad our personal life has grown connected to the social media craze. Highlighted by sights like Twitter and Facebook we share our lives with hundreds sometimes thousands of people at the push of a button or a swipe of a screen. With the distance that many friends and families span the best way to stay connected is by posting your pictures and tweeting your thoughts. This gives your "friends" or "followers" the inside scoop on what is going on in your life. Whether is has to do with checking in at a restaurant or twit picking a picture of your current activity never before have we been so adept at knowing what you are doing. But does this give us a accurate picture of who you really are. It can be argued that as connected as we may seem to be with the lives of our friends, are we really any closer to knowing them? This question is one you can ask yourself in times of self reflection but what I can tell you is that the age of instant information can be invaluable to the modern day claims professional.

Facebook and Twitter have become the modern day photo-album/journal. Being able to know what your claimants are doing in terms of physical activity can be a helpful clue as to the validity of their ongoing claim. The key to any background information is to obtain as much as you can as soon as you can. A recent case study shows that claims professionals are not the only ones privy to the social media world, so is your clients attorney!

We were contacted by one of our clients to help consult on a claim which seemed oddly peculiar when the client noticed that not only their claimant was on WC but so was his wife. Several red flags tipped off the adjuster to contact NSIU to help provide an investigative perspective on the case. We preformed a comprehensive background check and discovered through a social media search that the subject had been active outdoors as recently as the previous weekend. The adjuster took the information that we found to  move forward in the case. As the claimant noticed the attempts to help him get back to work were persistent the claimant decided to get an attorney. Once the claimant's attorney notified the insurance carrier that they were pursuing permanent partial disability (PPD) we were contacted to do surveillance on the subject. Since it had been some time from the original call on this specific claimant, NSIU ran another background check as well as a social media check. Low and behold the subjects Facebook account now had privacy settings on photos and updates. No longer were pictures of the subject camping and playing softball available to the public. Was this a coincidence?

As the industry as a whole moves closer to being aware of the information found on the internet the overt battle of the power of information wages on. Clearly some claimants are getting coached as to the risk of having their personal data open for the world to see. Now the argument in regards to social media, personal data and its accessibility online is something that would take an entirely different discussion. But SIU entities and investigators are not the only ones using social media as a tool for information. Some claimants and attorneys are going as far as using those same sites as a way to spread misinformation. In this particular claim only conversations on the social media sites that  hinted at injury were present in the second social media search. A direct contrast to the level of activity found on the original social media search. The one tool that the claimant could not hide from was surveillance. After several days of surveillance, with the prior knowledge of the subject participating in outdoor activities, the claimant was found playing softball in a night recreation league. In this case the information found on the social media site was not used as evidence or as a bargaining chip for mediation. It was used as an investigative tool to get an idea of activity level and to help get better results in the assigned surveillance.

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