Is My Workers’ Comp Insurance Company Spying on Me?
As if being injured and filing a workers’ comp claim wasn’t bad enough, now you have to ask the question, “Is the insurance company spying on me?”
I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but insurance surveillance is a real thing.
Insurance companies are in the business of helping other businesses – not injured workers.
Unfortunately, when insurance companies receive a workers’ comp claim, they are immediately skeptical.
Yes, some people try to defraud insurance companies, but certainly not enough people to warrant a go-to skeptical attitude. But, this is how insurance companies think.
Add in the fact that insurance companies focus on profits over people, and you’ve got two big reasons why they will hire private investigators to follow people and snoop around. So, the answer to the question, “Is the insurance company spying on me,” is YES!
Their goal is to spend as little money as possible, which means they will look for any opportunity to reduce insurance benefits or cut them altogether.
If they can “prove” you aren’t as injured as you claim, they protect their pocketbooks.
“Proving” you shouldn’t receive workers’ comp benefits means hiring someone to catch you doing something that contradicts your claims or your doctor’s orders.
So, the short answer to the question “Is the insurance company spying on me?” is YES.
Workers’ Compensation Investigation Is Big Business
Most people don’t realize what a big business insurance investigation is.
We tend to think of private investigators being used for complicated divorces, but if there is ever a chance to catch someone in a lie, an investigator is retained.
That’s why workers’ compensation investigations are common. Insurance companies are hoping to save money by paying someone to catch one of these so-called lies.
In the article “I was a private investigator, spying for insurance companies. Here’s what I found” for ABC news, the investigator shares: “There are thousands of private investigators surveilling insurance claimants right now. The exact number of licensed investigators is unknown — most states don’t maintain registers — but insurance work is their bread and butter. It kept me employed full-time for a year — no cheating spouses, no thieves in the night, just people with a claim that was costing their insurance company money.”
The investigator reports that she asked the claims officer why they wanted the claimant followed, and the responses were often extremely simplistic (e.g., “He seems suspect.”) without real cause.
Is the Insurance Company Spying on Me Directly?
The assumed answer is yes. The insurance company will hire a private investigator to spy on you directly.
I typically tell clients to look for a vehicle that looks out of place and that is all of a sudden there first thing in the morning.
Some insurance investigators are better at hiding than others, but sometimes I will get a client calling to say they are obviously being followed by a private investigator.
They can park on your street and take pictures of you outside your home or follow you to church, the grocery store, a store, or a restaurant.
In some states, they are even allowed to take photos of the inside of your home (as long as they remain off your private property).
It’s important to realize that private investigators often have tools that the rest of us don’t, such as special camera lenses that allow them to take pictures from a distance.
In addition to taking photos, which only capture one brief moment in time, they also record videos.
They may also speak to your neighbors or your doorman to see if they can find any incriminating evidence.
However, insurance investigators also perform desktop surveillance (like spying on your social media accounts).
Social media posts have become notorious for helping insurance companies get out of paying workers’ compensation benefits.
Even if your social media accounts are set to private, whatever you post online is at risk of being found by workers’ comp investigators and used against you.
Is This Legal?
One of the most common questions about insurance companies spying is whether or not it is legal.
Yes, it is legal. There are no laws that prohibit insurance companies from hiring private investigators to investigate claimants.
However, workers’ comp insurance investigators are only allowed to investigate and document (take photos or videos) public activity, such as playing with your kids in your front yard, checking your mail, or eating in a restaurant.
Why Is the Insurance Company Spying on Me?
The ultimate reason the insurance company is spying on you is that they don’t want to pay you the benefits you justly deserve.
They are looking out for themselves – not you.
When they hire a private investigator to follow you, they are hoping the investigator will uncover something that suggests you aren’t as hurt as you claim to be.
They are also hoping to find evidence that reveals you are capable of more work than you or the doctor suggests.
Finally, they want to catch you contradicting yourself or your doctor’s orders, such as lifting a heavy box when the doctor has told you not to lift heavy objects due to your back injury.
What You Should and Should Not Do
Since it is safe to assume the insurance company has hired an investigator to spy on you, there are some things you should and should not do.
#1 Tell the truth about your injury. Don’t exaggerate or lie about how you are feeling.
#2 Follow your doctor’s orders. If the doctor says you shouldn’t lift heavy objects, don’t lift heavy objects. Surveillance won’t be able to show how much pain is caused by lifting that heavy object, and they will assume you are fine.
#3 Stick to your story. If you have told your boss and your doctor how much pain you are in, don’t give them a reason to believe you are lying by posting pictures of yourself at a lively party over the weekend.
#4 Avoid posting anything incriminating online. For instance, unless the photo you post is timestamped (most aren’t), then an investigator may suggest your #ThrowbackThursday picture is more recent than it actually is.
#5 Hire an experienced workers’ comp attorney to help you navigate your claim and fight false evidence.
Assume the Insurance Company Is Spying on You. Stay Mindful.
It is easy to read about insurance surveillance and grow paranoid.
I don’t want you to be paranoid.
Instead, think of it this way – if you are telling the truth, just live your truth. Your activity level should be consistent with your claims.
However, it is still wise to be mindful and stay aware.
Assume the insurance company is watching and waiting for you to mess up, so make wise decisions about what you do in public view.
For example, some of the most mundane chores, such as carrying groceries, mowing the lawn, or playing with your kids, are the ones investigators try to use to disprove your workers’ comp claim.
Let’s say your doctor says you shouldn’t lift anything over 10 pounds. One day, an investigator captures a photo of you holding a large box on your driveway. What the investigator doesn’t know and the photo doesn’t show is that the box is empty.
Or you maybe choose to play with your kids for just a few minutes until the pain gets to be too much. Since you played in the front yard, the investigator captures a few seconds of video of you running and laughing, which makes it look like you are more capable of working than you actually are.
How a Workers’ Comp Attorney Can Help
Hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney not only makes the claim process easier but also ensures you get the best treatment possible, with the maximum benefits and the maximum settlement at the end of your claim.
Plus, if you think the insurance company’s investigator presents misleading evidence suggesting you are undeserving of your workers’ comp benefits, a qualified attorney can argue against the reliability of the evidence.