Today we continue our discussion of insurance company use of physical and online surveillance of disability-insurance claimants in an effort to find evidence that might discredit claims of injury and illness. If a picture, video or social media post suggests that a claimant can do something in his or her personal life that is inconsistent with his or her impairments, the insurer may use it as a basis to deny a claim, sometimes even when the person’s treating doctors and objective medical evidence say otherwise.
Not only is it disconcerting to have surveillance evidence used against you out of context, but also being tailed by a vehicle wherever you go or having a surveillance van sit outside of your house for hours can be frightening.
As we said in Part 1 of this two-part post, the Honolulu Civil Beat has published a three-part series about insurance company tactics in workers’ compensation cases. Many of the same tactics are used in disability insurance claims to try to discredit claims of injury and disease.
Surveillance evidence gone awry
Some of the stories Civil Beat uncovered include:
- A claimant who had been receiving benefits based on several work injuries was terminated when investigative video showed him lifting a washing machine. He was even accused of fraud and fined $10,000. On appeal, his benefits were reinstated and the fine dropped after it was brought to light that he had lifted only the light shell of a washing machine with the engine and tub removed. His later defamation lawsuit against the insurer was settled out of court.
- A videotape of a claimant walking normally who claimed an injured ankle was used to discredit his claim, when his treating physicians said it was only with twisting or turning the ankle that he experienced pain.
- Film of an injured claimant at the beach was used to support allegations of fabrication. In reality, the person’s physician had told the patient to go there to exercise.
Surveillance and mental impairment
The piece also explains another serious problem with insurer surveillance. It can be upsetting or traumatic, and aggravate the symptoms of a person with an emotional or mental disability to suspect or know that he or she is being followed or investigated, especially one with a PTSD diagnosis.
An experienced claimants’ attorney will vigorously challenge surveillance evidence used out of context to discredit medical claims or to suggest fraud when none exists. Disability claims should be decided on all of the medical evidence of record and on a comprehensive view of the claimant’s functioning, not on an isolated, misleading snapshot.