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Social media provides wealth of information for claim defense


CHICAGO — Public information posted online by workers compensation and liability claimants should be collected and analyzed to aid investigations by defense attorneys and claims adjusters, experts say.

Christopher E. Curl, president of Batavia, Illinois-based consulting firm C.E.C. Group L.L.C., said he has seen major employers use social media to their advantage in claims management. One large grocery chain he has worked with conducts social media research for auto and general liability claims, while he knows another employer that researches social media profiles for all workers comp lost-time claims.

“It’s just another way to fight insurance fraud,” Mr. Curl said.

Mr. Curl and others discussed the value of social media in claim investigations during a panel presentation Monday at the Chicagoland Risk Forum. The event was hosted by the Chicago and Mid-Illinois chapters of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.

By using specialized social media investigation software, it’s possible to find out a person’s address, phone number and their relatives or associates by indexing sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, said Lou Vittorio, Jr., Naperville, Illinois-based assistant vice president with Frasco Investigative Services. 

Social media users may not always make such information publicly available, Mr. Vittorio said. However, by researching the profiles of a claimant’s family and friends, investigators usually can find pictures and other information that has been publicly shared about the claimant.

“We’re going to go into those profiles and typically we’ll find one or more are public, and we’ll find information on that subject,” said Mr. Vittorio, who said investigators at his firm may spend up to three hours on such investigations.

While social media can provide valuable information to prove insurance fraud or abuse, investigators need to be sure that they conduct such research appropriately, said Robert Johnson, Chicago-based managing partner with consulting firm Solomon Group L.L.C.

For instance, investigators should not try to “friend” or connect with claimants they are researching on social media, said Mr. Johnson, who is also a partner and chief diversity and inclusion officer with Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer P.A. law firm in Chicago.

“You want to make sure you’re acting in an ethical way and not trying to go around any privacy settings they have,” Mr. Johnson said.

Michael Airdo, a partner with law firm Kopon Airdo L.L.C. in Chicago, said every company looking to control workers comp and litigation claim costs should use social media research to their advantage. 

Companies should index information on claimants' social media profiles as soon as possible after a claim is filed — before the person can edit their social media presence, Mr. Airdo said.

"Once this person has the value of having a conversation with his or her lawyer, that information disappears," he said.