On occasion an insurance company may engage in surveillance in an effort to cast doubt on the legitimacy of your workers’ compensation claim. They are fishing for some evidence that your injury is not as bad as you say it is or that you have the actual functional ability to return to work. Remember that they would like to avoid paying for expensive medical treatment and wage loss benefits if they can come up with a justification.
Typically, the insurance company will be scrutinizing your description of your symptoms and physical limitations. They will do this by reviewing your medical records and/or after they take your deposition. Then they might, at any point, hire an investigator to conduct observations and take video surveillance of your day to day activities. They may observe you outside your home (such as gardening, auto-repair, home maintenance), driving places, going shopping, at the gym, engaging in sports or other recreational activities, going to/from work, or just driving around town to see where you go and what you are capable of doing (walking, carrying, bending, stooping, lifting, standing, etc.). You should also be aware that they may search the internet and social media sites (such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) for anything they could use against you if you are claiming you can’t do certain things but posts show otherwise. This type of surveillance is generally lawful and you can not prevent them from engaging in lawful surveillance.
Understand that they are trying to “catch” you doing things that are not consistent with what you are saying to your doctors or what you say in your deposition or before a judge. If they think their surveillance has documented inconsistencies or lies, they will attempt to use this against you. They could provide the surveillance results to a doctor to undermine the medical diagnosis, treatment plan or work limitations. They could use the surveillance materials to cross-examine you or “impeach” the credibility of your testimony in a court room. If the surveillance material is very damning they could even accuse you of criminal insurance fraud. Unfortunately, they may use unfair tactics such as using material out of context or just showing a small portion of your day that doesn’t fairly represent the truth. But still, surveillance evidence might give insurance companies a strong defense argument.
You should also be aware that insurance companies could utilize surveillance at multiple times during your claim. They might do this early on to dispute that you were even hurt at all, they may use surveillance to dispute the need for ongoing medical treatment or entitlement to short term wage losses or even years after your claim has been closed and you are receiving permanent impairment benefits for a long term loss of earning capacity.
Surveillance is expensive and not all claims are intensely disputed, so insurance companies do not always resort to these tactics. But we wanted you to always be aware that this is possible. If you do notice someone following you or “staking out” your home or place of business you should take note of the physical description of the person, the vehicle and the license plate number. Take your own photographs from a safe distance if possible but be mindful of your own security. It is also possible the situation does not involve an insurance company investigator and someone is acting with criminal intent and may harm you or your property. If you do notice someone surveilling you and believe they may have criminal intent or that they are breaking the law and you are concerned about your physical safety you should contact your local law enforcement agency to report you concern and provide them with any identifying information you have gathered.
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