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November 25, 2009

Facebook in the News

Earlier this week the CBC’s “The National”, with Peter Mansbridge, reported on a young woman in Montreal who has been on leave from her job for the last year and a half after she was diagnosed with major depression. The report indicated that the woman’s disability sick leave benefits were cut off because her insurance company had found photos she had posted on Facebook showing her out nights at her local bar with friends and on holiday to sun destinations.

The use of Facebook as evidence to prove or disprove a claimant’s alleged disabilities and injuries is not new. Several judges in Ontario have granted Orders requiring plaintiffs to produce their Facebook content including photos and/or videos.

In this particular instance we only know the information which was reported in the news. The CBC seemed to suggest that people should be careful about what they post on Facebook and further that it might have been inappropriate for the insurer to use the photos and information the claimant posted on her Facebook pages against her.

The other side of the story, however, is that an insurance company has the right not to make payments to someone who does not qualify for them. This woman was claiming she could no longer work because of major depression and was asking her disability insurer to pay replacement income benefits so she did not have to work.

Disability insurance policies are designed to protect individuals from a loss of income in the event of serious illness or injury. The insurance company has a right and obligation to the shareholders of the insurance company to ensure it is not making payments to fraudulent claimants. I have no idea if the woman in the CBC news story is a legitimate claimant or a fraudster but I do know that there are some fraudulent claimants in society who will allege illness or injury so they can receive compensation and not have to go back to work.

It seems to me that if a person is suffering a mental or psychological disability such that they cannot even work then it seems to make sense that they should be so disabled that they could not go out partying at their local bar or taking sun destination vacations. Isn't that common sense?

I am not an expert in psychology and such an expert would have to say whether this makes sense or not in regard to this particular woman.

No one is suggesting that an injured or disabled person should not be entitled to their long term disability insurance benefits. But a person has to be disabled. It is not enough that a person is a little depressed and does not want to go to work anymore.

If individuals are willing to post photos and videos of themselves on Facebook, shouldn’t insurance companies be able to access that information to weed out fraudulent claims? The result will be reduced premiums for the rest of us.

1 comment:

  1. The insurer presumably paid her pre-Facebook based on medical opinion. It should at least get an "expert" opinion that the activities actually seen on Facebook (smiling, being present in a club) are incompatible with disability. Friends and family of depressed people will coax them to go out and of course they will smile for the camera even if they sit miserably the rest of the evening. Besides, LTD is usually paid if the person is disabled from the job. A surgeon with jitters qualifies even if he can still golf!