In many cases, without the claimant’s knowledge, insurance companies hire private investigators to follow the claimant and conduct video surveillance over a period of several days. This video is often used to create the illusion that because the claimant is functional and can leave the house they can return to full time work. Often these videos are taken over a 72-96 hour period and show only a few hours of activity during that time. These videos are misleading; nonetheless they are used to deny or terminate benefits or to frighten claimants into agreeing to a settlement of their claim, much lower than their claim is actually worth.
The court in Young v. United of Omaha Life Insurance Company, No. 2:15-CV-00120-JLQ, 2016 WL 755639 (E.D. Wash. Feb. 25, 2016) found that the video surveillance relied on by the insurance company to deny benefits was inconsequential and did not illustrate that the plaintiff was no longer disabled and/or could return to work. In this case, Ms. Young provided ample proof that she was unable to work including an assessment from her treating physician. The assessment stated that Ms. Young could not work at her current occupation due to her physical conditions (headaches, neck pains, cervical spine degeneration). Additionally, Ms. Young received a medical exam by the insurer’s own “independent” neurologist, Dr. Zoltani. He opined that Ms. Young should not sit for too long and should not flex her neck, which would occur when looking down or up for over 15 minutes in an hour. As a Database Systems Engineer, Ms. Young would have to be on a computer regularly and would not be able to avoid such behaviors.
After initially supporting Ms. Young’s disability claim, Dr. Zoltani received a video surveillance tape from the insurance company containing footage of Ms. Young performing activities such as driving a car and walking her dog. He was then asked to answer a number of biased questions and “update” his findings. Dr. Zoltani’s succinct reply was, “this is inconsistent with her history.” Dr. Zoltani’s initial report supported Ms. Young’s claim; at the insurance company’s prodding he changed his stance and took a position against Ms. Young. The court found the video surveillance unsubstantial and noted the insurer’s lack of objectivity and granted Ms. Young’s motion finding her disabled under the policy.
Knowing your rights as well as the insurance company’s obligations and limitations is extremely important. Thus, it is wise to seek advice prior to filing a claim, when appealing a denial or decision, or accepting a settlement offer. If you have questions about a an insurance company or your right to insurance benefits and/or wish to discuss your insurance claim with one of our attorneys, please do not hesitate to contact us at (866) 363-3628 or visit our website at www.dilawgroup.com