What to watch for and how to protect yourself, your family and your privacy
You’ve been injured on the job and are filing a workers’ compensation claim. You believe your employer and their insurance company understand your pain and are willing to help. What you don’t know is your employer or their insurance company could be spying on you.
You may be shocked to learn this information. You likely feel your privacy is being unfairly invaded. It’s important to understand workers’ compensation investigations are legal in many states.
While employers and insurance companies may have the right to investigate you, unfair tactics are not legal. In some instances, injured workers are unfairly targeted. The investigator may even misconstrue your actions and cause you to lose your workers’ compensation benefits.
The investigator may catch you in the act of working out at the gym or bending down to pick up your child when you have a hurt back. A single photo can be damning without further information to explain the action being carried out.
In order to protect your rights, you need to be aware of the workers’ comp investigator tactics that could cause your benefits to be denied.
What surveillance tactics do insurance companies use?
Generally speaking, insurance investigators aren’t permitted to engage in illegal surveillance when investigating a workers’ compensation claim. For instance, trespassing on private property, tapping your phone line, hacking into your personal computer or phone, tracking your car and other illegal activities are not allowed.
However, investigators have multiple approaches to keep tabs on an injured worker. Workers’ compensation investigators may watch you while you’re outside your home. They may even follow you throughout the day.
Here are a few of the most common methods investigators will employ when investigating you:
- Online surveillance
- Interviews and conversations with people you know, including family and friends
- Interviews or indirect forms of communication with you
- Video surveillance
Be aware that when you’re in a public place, you could be watched. These highly trained investigators may even approach you in the grocery store and start a conversation. A casual remark on your part could potentially provide the insurance company with the leverage they need to deny your claim.
Be extremely careful when in public or online
Online surveillance is one of the most common tools investigators use to “dig up dirt” on a person. Your social media posts or posts in chat rooms can all serve as evidence that can be used against you.
Remember, an investigator doesn’t have to reveal who they are. They can talk to you, your family, friends and even co-workers to gather information without identifying themself.
You may believe your worries will be over after you receive your benefits, but this is not always correct. Many people have been subjected to workers’ comp surveillance after their settlement. In some cases, individuals have been found guilty of fraud even after receiving their settlement.
When does workers’ comp start surveillance?
In general, insurance companies may begin surveillance right after they receive your workers’ comp claim.
Your claim will provide details about your injuries as well as the limitations and work restrictions recommended by your doctor. After they review this information, the insurance company will often hire a surveillance investigator to monitor your daily activities with the aim of identifying any inconsistencies between your documented limitations and the activities you participate in throughout your day.
While any injured worker could potentially be subject to surveillance after filing a claim, your activity is more likely to be monitored if you’ve previously filed a claim or if your injury is extensive. Also, be aware that even after their initial surveillance is complete, they may surveil you again in the future if your claim extends over a prolonged period of time or if your benefit payments are substantial.
Are all workers’ compensation cases investigated?
Not all cases result in surveillance. Insurance companies and employers have the right to use surveillance tactics if they feel the following are true:
- Your injuries are not as severe as you claim
- You have faked your injuries
- You are working multiple jobs
Many people are offended to learn they’ve been investigated. It’s important to note that worker’s compensation fraud is far-reaching. If your employer or their insurance company feels there’s any reason to doubt your claim or injury severity, you will likely be investigated. Even if you’ve given your employer no reason to suspect you are being dishonest, you could still be investigated.
How to tell if you are being investigated
Unfortunately, you will likely never know if you are under surveillance, though there may be some clues. Some people report seeing unfamiliar cars hanging around their residence or notice that they’re being followed. Most investigators are very good at their jobs—so good, in fact, that you probably won’t know they’re around.
It’s wise to act as if you’re under surveillance when you’re out in public or posting on social media. Be careful what you say and do, both before your settlement and after.
Be cautious before talking with other people about your claim. Even your friends and family could unknowingly be used to deny your claim. You must work to protect your rights as an injured worker. Just as your employer and their insurance company have rights, so do you. Do not negate your rights by making mistakes that paint you as a fraudulent person.
When to consult a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney
If you suspect an investigator is watching you, it’s wise to consult with a lawyer to learn about your rights. Hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer to represent you offers welcome relief from the stress of having to file a claim yourself.
Our experienced lawyers can advise you on the best ways to protect yourself from doing something that could cause your benefits to be delayed or even denied, including following your doctor’s orders.