Insurance companies often send out private investigators to do surveillance on workers who have made workers’ compensation insurance claims. While you should not feel paranoid or scared, you should be aware that an investigator could watch you performing your daily activities.
The insurance company may hire an investigator because it wants to show one of two things: (1) the employee is performing activities inconsistent with his medical restrictions, and (2) the employee is not credible and gave inaccurate information to his doctors. For example, the insurance company may try to show that the employee should not be lifting more than 5 pounds, but right after he visited his doctor he went home and carried heavy bags of groceries into the house. Or the insurance company may try to show that the employee told the doctors that he could not jump or run without extreme pain, but surveillance shows him playing basketball every day.
In addition, the insurance company may ask a private investigator to conduct surveillance if you have been off work for a long time or if it believes that you made up your injury. Often, the insurance company will instruct the investigator to videotape you shortly after you leave your doctor’s office. Then, the company can try to show that the doctor’s records are inconsistent with your actions right after your appointment.
The investigator may conduct surveillance over a period of several days, trying to capture you performing the same activity numerous times or performing multiple activities that are against your restrictions. Seeing someone following you, taking video, or taking photos of you while you are engaged in personal activities can feel very intrusive. Keep in mind that this will not last forever, and is often necessary so that you can get benefits. If the surveillance reveals no “smoking gun” evidence, the insurer’s case for denial of benefits may be very weak.
Insurance companies have to disclose any surveillance to you or your attorney before the workers’ compensation hearing, in most cases. This includes videos, photographs, audio recordings, and other items “surreptitiously taken or obtained without the party’s expressed permission or knowledge”. (Minn. Rules § 1420.2200, subp. 8.) The insurer does not have to provide you with the private investigator’s notes or observations. Depending on what the surveillance shows, your lawyer may turn this evidence to your advantage at the hearing.
Need help getting workers’ compensation for your injury? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.