Last July, I wrote a post on this blog about how your Facebook profile could be used against you in your case. The Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation will allow defense counsel to introduce status updates and pictures to challenge your assertions that you are injured and cannot work. This is in addition to the surveillance and other investigation that defense counsel use to impugn your credibility.
More recently I have learned of a case where the insurance company's defense lawyer used a "request for the production of documents" to demand that an injured claimant turn over his personal computer to be examined by the lawyer. As you may know, when you file a workers' compensation claim in Georgia, both sides are allowed to demand information from the other per Georgia's "discovery rules."
Apparently, in this case, the insurance company believes that the claimant's hard drive will reveal damaging information - perhaps photos, evidence of work or physical activity, or it may be just a fishing expedition.
Now, this was not my case, and at this point, at least, this demand for the claimant's computer has not become a regular part of defense counsel's arsenal, but I think that this type of request sets a very bad precedent. I learned about this case in a monthly meeting I attend with a few other claimant's lawyers who get together to discuss current developments in the law and winning strategies. All of us in last month's meeting were somewhat taken aback by this discovery request as well as the presiding judge's approval of the request. We all agreed that if any of us are involved in a case and the insurance company asks to look at our clients' computers, we will fight this request vigorously.
However, I would be remiss if I did not let you know about this troubling development. It is certainly possible that an appellate court could sanction this type of discovery under certain circumstances. Therefore, I will be telling my clients to not only be aware that their outside activities could be videotaped by an insurance company private investigator, but that their emails, photographs and other computer activities could be examined by a hostile adversary in a workers' compensation case.
And for those of you who say "let them look - I have nothing to hide" I would respond by saying that clever defense counsel can take photos, videos and correspondence out of context that will make you look deceitful.
This article originally appeared on the Georgia Workers Compensation blog. Reprinted with permission.