29 Mar Why Our Defense Attorneys Care about Care.com
At this point, we all know social media is an excellent tool to use when researching the activities of claimants, and a number of our recent posts have encouraged the use of electronic and social media to advance our defense of workers’ compensation claims. This post similarly encourages us to take advantage of easily available information in our local economy. It is inspired by a recent case wherein we discovered not only frequent physical activity on the part of a certain claimant, but also her ability to profit from a self-run, cash-only business without our client having to pay a private investigator.
The claimant was a hotel room attendant whose primary job duties included changing linens, cleaning bathrooms, re-stocking toiletries, and taking trash from the reception areas. She sustained a questionable injury to her lower back with little objective evidence of an acute injury. When she refused to return to work on restrictions, she was placed on a leave of absence.
Upon interviewing the hotel staff, all of them were adamant that the claimant sustained a minor injury while working for her own cleaning business, which she named after herself. A quick visit to the website Care.com revealed that the day after the alleged on the job injury, the Claimant logged in edited her profile. When we found her profile, she listed she was currently accepting new clients, and that she had “logged in” the day we checked the website. She had a number of current reviews posted by customers weeks after the on the job injury. We presented this information to the claimant’s attorney after the deposition, wherein the claimant testified she stays in bed most days, and barely uses a computer, which was likely an attempt to avoid any data-entry or telephone oriented light duty job offers. The claimant’s attorney promptly tendered a demand. We were able to avoid the cost of a private investigator and additional medical investigation.
The websites Care.com and Angie’s list typically have businesses and individuals who have done enough work to receive reviews from users, and allow transparent interactions with former and current clients pertaining to those reviews. Oftentimes reviews or other indicators will clue you in as to when the individual was taking and performing jobs, with Care.com often listing how often the provider logs in to the system. If you have a claimant in the child care industry, hotel industry, automotive industry, or is a construction/handyman laborer, at this point we are remiss should we fail to check these resources to “catch” claimants who are not only earning income, but engaging in physical activities beyond their stated abilities. One quick tip: try to obtain this information before the claimant’s deposition. After the deposition is complete, depending on the testimony you can send supplemental discovery asking the pertinent questions. Many claimant’s attorneys know we will check Facebook and they encourage their clients to refrain from public activity on that site; it is harder to hide an active Care.com or Angie’s list vendor.