There is a very good chance that the insurance company has hired a private investigator to follow you around with a video camera. This does not mean that you are being followed 24/7 but at some point in your case, you will be followed and videotaped.
The insurance company wants to catch you engaging in physical activity that is inconsistent with your injured body part. Here’s what you need to know:
- this type of surveillance is legal – the law allows the insurance company to use surveillance videotape in its defense against your claim
- we will have an opportunity to see the videotape before it is introduced in court and we can object to it under certain circumstances
- you will not have any warning about video surveillance – you should therefore conduct yourself according to your doctor’s orders
- many legitimate cases have been undone by a claimant’s activities when that injured worker was “having a good day”
What are the most common surveillance situations? After viewing many surveillance videotapes, the most common times for a private investigator to videotape you include:
- trips to the grocery store, especially times when a claimant is seen lifting grocery bags from a shopping cart into a car
- unloading groceries upon arrival at home – yes, private investigators will follow you home and tape you carrying bags from your car
- performing yard work or outside cleanup, such as washing a car or hosing down a driveway
- walking without a cane or easily getting in and out of a vehicle despite complaints of severe back pain
- visiting the doctor’s office – maybe that friendly person chatting with you in the waiting room is the private investigator!
What Do we Tell our Clients About Surveillance?
First and foremost, tell the truth to your doctor and to your lawyer. You do not need to exaggerate your limitations if you are legitimately hurt. If you overstate your claim (or lie) you are going to get caught and we will not be able to help you.
Second, avoid the temptation to push yourself if you are having a good day. The private investigator who videotapes you unloading bags of bark chips is not going to see you writhing in pain in bed for the next 3 days.
Third, don’t assume you will spot surveillance. Maybe you will see the investigator and maybe you won’t. A better course of action would be to behave normally in light of your injuries. When you start feeling better, talk to your lawyer about the best strategy for moving forward, including settlement.
Workers’ compensation claims can get very adversarial and photographic or videotape evidence can be manipulated and used against you. If you would like a strong advocate who will work hard on your behalf, please reach out to us.