Using a variety of surveillance and investigation techniques, disability insurance companies often try to gather information about claimants’ daily activities. Then, they use the information to say the claimants are not disabled – and not eligible for disability benefits.
For example, the insurer might deny a disability claim by saying that because social media postings show the claimant enjoying themself at a party, they could not be disabled from depression. Or, the insurance company may assert that because a claimant mows their lawn, they are not in disabling pain.
By using surveillance to catch a claimant doing something it could use to say the person is not acting like a disabled person, the insurer also implies that the claimant is less than forthcoming or may be dishonest about their limitations. This unfairly casts a shadow on their credibility, causes the claimant stress and puts them on the defensive.
Insurance Investigators Cast a Wide Net
Disability insurers use several kinds of surveillance to spy on claimants. Remember, these are people to whom they have a contractual obligation to pay benefits when the insureds become disabled under policies the insurer has sold to them either privately or through employers. Yet, often the insurance company’s approach is to gather as much evidence as possible to try to show that claimants are NOT disabled – even if medical records show otherwise.
Some of the surveillance utilized:
- Drones with cameras
- Private investigators who watch and tail claimants for pictures and video surveillance of their daily lives
- Social media monitoring
- Broad Internet fishing for any claimant information
- Fitbit exercise history or similar fitness monitoring data from other exercise tracking apps or wearable devices
- And others
For example, the claims administrator could ask a claimant for electronically stored information (ESI) not only from exercise tracking devices, but also from cell phones, tablets or computers. However, claimants should know that disability insurers do not automatically get whatever information they want from people making claims. They are limited to information that is relevant to the issue of disability. Claimants may not know that they can say NO to a demand for irrelevant information.
Bartis v. Biomet, Inc., is a recent, illustrative federal court case involving a different scenario (injuries from a defective product). The judge responded to the defendant manufacturer’s request for electronic exercise data by saying yes – data showing significant walking or jogging could be relevant to the question of the hip injury’s severity. However, the court said that the injured plaintiff need not reveal data about heart rate, sleep or location because this information is not relevant to the injury and “raises privacy concerns.” (The Bartis case is available through a link within the article reached at the above link.)
The judge in Bartis cited a similar case from Texas in which the court granted only limited access to data from a party’s electronic devices. That judge said that in an attempt to get a party’s ESI, the question is whether the request is “proportional to the needs of the case” and if it raises issues of intrusiveness, privacy and confidentiality.
It can seem intimidating for a claimant to push back against an insurer’s request for ESI. An attorney can assist in this dialog and protect the claimant’s rights such as by requesting to review a videotape obtained through surveillance and pushing back against inappropriate, irrelevant surveillance evidence.
How Can Disability Insurance Law Group Help?
A delay or denial of a disability claim can be financially devastating. Disability Insurance Law Group represents long-term care and all disability insurance claimants at every stage of the insurance process. If you have any questions regarding your life insurance claim, our team of attorneys would be happy to provide you with a free consultation. Please contact us at 954-989-9000 or email us now.