If you are filing or have already filed an ERISA disability claim it is very important to be aware that insurers may be watching you to gather evidence which can undermine your right to benefits. This is not something you may even be aware of– surveillance is conducted secretly to try and “catch you” doing something which the insurer can then use to justify denial of your claim. Accordingly, you must take care and be conscious what photographic or video images people capture of you.
ERISA insurers need to check that a disability claim is valid. That is understandable. Yet, you might not realize the extent they can go to to investigate the validity of a disability claim. All insurance companies operate for profit, so they can sometimes be overzealous when seeking to deny claims. Even when not overzealous, insurers can be very aggressive and intrusive in investigating and corroborating your claim. Keep your wits about you. You can assume that insurers will be watching.
How do ERISA insurers get images of you?
Claim administrators can get pictures or footage of you from several sources:
- Social media or the internet: Things you post on social media, or the internet, can be seen the world over. You might also appear in photos that a friend or colleague posts.
- The media: The local news channel might catch you on film as you pass by a live broadcast. Or a press photographer might snap a shot of you as they cover an event for the local paper.
- Private investigators: While they might dream of being Sam Spade or Magnum P.I. and solving high-profile crimes, most private investigators earn their money following ordinary people around. Insurers hire them for all sorts of claims.
That might all sound fine. After all, your claim is genuine, so why would you worry? The problem is the camera does not always capture the whole truth, and sometimes evidence is edited to make it appear stronger than it is. For example, you are photographed walking your daughter to the altar, and the insurer uses it to say you can stand up and walk around enough to work. Yet no one took pictures of you swallowing painkillers to walk those few yards. No one posted a picture of you being pushed into the frame in your wheelchair or being helped away as soon as the wedding photographer had snapped the shutter.
If an insurer has denied your ERISA claim, it is crucial to investigate why and challenge any evidence they are using against you. But understand that this is an adversarial process; even though you are acting in good faith, rest assured that the carrier will use whatever evidence it can find to avoid paying your claim. It is not personal–it is just business.