A common scene in TV shows and movies is a couple of guys sitting in a van down the street from an unsuspecting person’s home, conducting surveillance. Usually it’s law enforcement, but sometimes it’s a private company. Does this happen in real life? Absolutely.
Here’s what you need to know about insurance company surveillance during your disability claim.
What are insurance companies allowed to do?
Sadly, little is off limits when it comes to surveillance laws. The only settings where companies can’t surveil you is in your home and at work (if you’re still working). Everywhere else is fair game, including restaurants, parties and even at church.
With the increased availability of sophisticated, yet affordable technology, physical surveillance has never been easier. Instead of paying three people to follow you for two weeks with telephoto lens cameras, they can pay one person to follow you for a few days while wearing a high-definition micro camera.
The risks of social media
In this era of social media sharing, sometimes insurance companies won’t bother sending people to physically surveil you. Instead, they will comb through your social media accounts for signs that your disability does not prevent you from doing normal work and activities.
Post showing you playing with your kids at the park, walking without difficulty and attending social functions can be used against you. Even the frequency of your posts might be actionable evidence, depending on your claim.
It’s a good idea to tighten the privacy settings on your social media accounts, so only your followers can see your posts.
How this evidence will be used against you
When applying for long-term disability, you will need to describe in detail why you are too disabled to work. Using this information, the insurance company will try to catch you engaging in activities that contradict your testimony.
A recent claim denial case, which the disabled person lost, is a textbook example of an insurance company saving themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in payouts by paying a few thousand dollars for a few days of successful surveillance.
In this case, the investigators captured video evidence of the individual walking their dog, with some difficulty, which they used as proof to cancel her claim. A doctor’s letter describing why the woman was still too disabled to work was deemed to be insufficient evidence to reinstate her benefits.
You shouldn’t have to hide in your home to maintain your benefits. Though they will use it against you, insurance companies know that disabled people have good days and bad days. One shouldn’t have to spend their good days worrying about being followed by an investigator. If you notice that someone is obviously following you, call the police.
More importantly, you shouldn’t pretend to be more disabled than you are. This can backfire in court under expert scrutiny that the insurance company will gladly pay for.
Your best defense is to try to live life as normally as you can, while keeping thorough records from your doctor visits and their ongoing judgements about the state of your condition.