Surveillance is a common tactic deployed by insurance companies to discredit short-term disability and long-term disability claims, as it can be used as evidence to dispute the alleged limitations and restrictions of an individual claiming disability benefits. An insurer can conduct surveillance if they suspect a claimant has over exaggerated their disability claim. They will hire a private investigator to surveil the claimant over a certain period of time. An insurance company may initiate surveillance if they suspect that a claimant may be working, or if they discover inconsistencies in reported information, especially if it’s different from the information recorded by the doctor treating them.
When conducting surveillance, private investigators can take photos and videos of the claimant from public property, since there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Once the claimant leaves their home, the private investigator will surveil their movements, which can include recording trips to the store, socializing with friends, any type of yard work, playing with grandchildren or driving to appointments. The investigator will be looking for how often the claimant leaves their home, as well as what they are doing when they leave, where every detail of how the claimant conducts themselves in public will be recorded.
Some examples of these details are; any difficulties with movement, how long they remained outside of their home, whether the claimant drove and how long for, was anything being carried (handbag), use of assistive device (cane or brace) and attire (type of shoes). Surveillance can be used to monitor claimants with physical and psychological conditions, though it is more effective in cases where a claimant has physical symptoms, due to the observable nature of the limitations. For psychological conditions, the investigator may scrutinize the claimants social interactions with family and friends.
Social media checks and general internet searches will also be conducted by the insurance companies, since it is a convenient and inexpensive method of gathering personal information about the claimant. The insurance company will be looking for photographs, personal webpages, employment status updates and communication with others, where contradictory information could be used as evidence against the disability claim.
There are several steps that can be taken to reduce the chance of surveillance discrediting a disability claim. The first step is to be transparent with the insurance company and doctors about the physical and psychological symptoms of the disability, that way the investigators will not uncover any contradictory information when conducting surveillance. The second step is to be aware that surveillance will most likely be conducted leading up to claim related appointments, such as an Examination of Discovery. The third step is to use strict privacy settings on social media, as posts could be subjected to surveillance by the insurance company. Most importantly, you should continue living your life they way you normally would, as evidence gathered through surveillance is not conclusive, since it only captures a small snapshot of your life. Having good or bad days when living with a disability does not represent your overall functioning, or ability to work.
Insurance companies spend millions of dollars a year to conduct surveillance on claimants receiving benefits, since it is in their interest to maintain profitability for their shareholders by denying claims and dispersing minimum payouts.
For more information about social media surveillance here’s a link to our previous blog https://www.kotaklaw.com/blogpost/how-your-disability-insurance-company-can-use-your-social-media-against-you
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Disclaimer: This article is intended to supply general information to the public. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, as laws change quickly, the reader should always ensure the accuracy and applicability of such information with respect to their particular case. The information contained in this article cannot replace a thorough and complete review of the reader’s situation by competent legal counsel who has had an opportunity to review all of the facts.