Insurance companies frequently use private investigators to place claimants under surveillance while “investigating” a claimant’s right to disability insurance benefits. Surveillance is conducted at various stages in the disability insurance process including, when a claim is filed, periodically throughout a claim if benefits are approved, and after a claim has been denied. Very often, the activity actually captured on video is not inconsistent with a claimant’s stated activities. However, frequently, insurance companies will piece together snapshots of activity, over the course of several days and/or months to create the illusion that the claimant is more active than they have asserted. Private investigators have the power to turn on and off their camera while surveilling a claimant. This gives them significant power to create the illusion that the claimant is less limited than he or she previously claimed. For example, private investigators only shoot footage when the claimant is actually active. If the claimant fails to leave their home for two or three days, the video footage will never capture this, despite the fact that it may be consistent with the claimant’s stated limitations and compelling evidence of disability. Similarly, video surveillance footage cannot establish the degree of pain a claimant was in when engaging in the activity seen or document the amount of pain medication the claimant had to take when he or she returned home.
The video surveillance footage obtained by insurance companies of their claimants is often taken out of context and used to deny claims. Moreover, insurance companies will frequently submit the footage to a claimant’s physicians with the suggestion that the claimant mislead them about his or her limitations or pain level in order to induce the claimant’s physicians into rescinding their certification of disability. As such, if you have a disability insurance claim, it is important to be aware of this practice and educate your physicians about this tactic. Sometimes, surveillance is paired with a request that the claimant complete an activities log so that the carrier can compare the activity seen with the information provided in the log. Likewise, insurance companies will often conduct surveillance on days that they know their claimant is attending a doctor’s appointment, picking up their child from school, or when they are scheduled to attend an examination set up by the insurance company. Moreover, the winter holiday season is a popular time for insurance companies to conduct surveillance because people often push themselves beyond their comfortable limits to shop, attend functions, and/or host events to celebrate with friends and family. Similarly, insurance companies frequently order surveillance during the summertime, because claimants are more likely to venture outside of their homes when the weather is better.
It is important to remember that if you push yourself beyond your limits while engaging in activity, you should inform your physicians of any aggravation of your condition or symptoms. If there is video footage of you at this time, it will be helpful for there to be documentation that you had difficulty tolerating the activity. People often attempt to hide their discomfort and temporarily push themselves through pain while in public due to a desire to not draw attention to their condition. This can be fatal to a disability insurance claim. If you are in pain while in public, you should refrain from suffering in silence. If you need to rest, stretch, take medication, or change positions due to pain, do so. Otherwise, if you are under surveillance, your insurance company will likely argue that you did not “appear” in pain, you did not require additional medication, or you engaged in activity without any obvious difficulty.
If you have a disability insurance claim or will likely need to file a claim and would like to discuss your legal rights or the claim process, Disability Insurance Law Group would be happy to provide you with a free consultation.