Private pics made available in disputed disability claim

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A Supreme Court master in BC has decided private Facebook photos can be used as evidence in a civil case where a young woman is claiming damages for the long term effects of injuries sustained in a car accident.

Tamara Fric claims she was rear-ended by a couple and is still impaired by the injuries she sustained. She told the court making her Facebook photos available for the case was an invasion of privacy, but the master overturned this based on its relevance to her complaint.

This has precedent for civil actions relating to disability benefits and claims, says Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti associate Deborah Hudson. In short and long term disability claims employers and insurance carriers have been known to hire investigators for suspect claims.

“It’s not going to be relevant to every case, but where the medical evidence doesn’t seem adequate and employers are suspicious they might look at social media and other areas to see if there’s anything inconsistent with the disability they’re claiming,” Hudson says. “If they’re claiming loss of enjoyment of life and then posting photos of themselves skiing in the Alps it’s going to affect their claim.”

Anything “arguably relevant” can be made available to both sides of any case, and the courts have traditionally taken a broad view of what is relevant.

It will likely become standard practice to ask to view social media photos, says Hudson.

“I think now in litigation employer council should routinely ask for disclosure of Facebook photos. The employee might have to disclose all their pictures to substantiate their disability claims.”



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