Is Seeing Believing? Disability Insurance Surveillance and Credibility
Disability insurance companies frequently use video surveillance and other tactics, hoping to prove you’re exaggerating your symptoms. While no one likes the feeling of being watched, most surveillance is harmless. In this article, the experienced disability insurance lawyers at Bryant Legal Group outline common surveillance tactics and suggest ways you can protect your privacy and preserve your credibility.
Why Do Disability Insurers Use Surveillance?
When you file a claim for short-term or long-term disability benefits, your credibility is essential. Many disabling conditions, like chronic pain, fatigue, and depression, have a subjective component: you can’t prove someone’s level of anxiety using a diagnostic study like an MRI or CT scan. Instead, you have to rely on the accuracy of their statements. So, if the insurance company (or a judge) thinks you’re being less than honest about your symptoms, you may lose out on monthly benefits you deserve.
Insurance companies tend to believe that surveillance is the best way to undermine a person’s credibility. The insurance company hires someone to observe the person and go through their online activity, looking for evidence that calls their disability claims into question.
However, insurance companies also overemphasize the power of surveillance. Context plays a significant role when assessing any surveillance footage.
For example, suppose you have a disabling back condition, and a private investigator captures video footage of you playing with your dog at the park. A five-minute clip shows you performing activities like bending over, throwing a tennis ball, and strolling on a paved path. While the footage might seem a little damaging, a skilled disability insurance lawyer can help put it into context. After all, it’s only five minutes of your life.
On the other hand, if the investigator got hours of footage showing you reroofing your house, it’s going to be harder to explain that away.
Which Disability Insurance Companies Use Surveillance?
Every disability insurance company uses surveillance, although some are more known for the practice. For example, UNUM and The Hartford have well-documented histories of surveilling disability claimants. UNUM even uses “field visits” as an opportunity to get into people’s homes and look for “dirt.”
Any time an insurance company representative asks to meet with you, schedules an independent medical examination, or requests a functional capacity evaluation, you should assume you’re under surveillance.
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Look Out for These Common Disability Surveillance Tactics
Insurance companies conduct surveillance in many different ways. While stakeouts and physical tracking are still common, many insurers also embrace electronic investigations. Here’s what you need to look out for.
Sometimes, private investigators will physically track you, following you to the grocery store, watching you at your child’s sporting events, and staking out your home. In these cases, the investigator will typically try to photograph or record your activities. However, the investigator cannot enter your property or try to film you in areas where you have an expectation of privacy, like your bedroom or the bathroom.
Electronic surveillance is increasingly common today. A simple internet search can offer up a wealth of information. Investigators will likely visit your social media profiles (as well as those of your friends and family), in hopes that they’ll find images and posts that suggest you’re more active and healthier than you claim. They may even argue that your LinkedIn account suggests you’re looking for work.
Sometimes, electronic surveillance is used in conjunction with physical surveillance. If you consistently check in to a location on social media, an investigator may use this information to follow you.
Field visits or interviews are often framed as a chance for you to “put a name with a face” and update the insurance company about your condition in your own words. However, as we mentioned earlier, a field visit or interview is often more about surveillance than getting to know you. Sometimes, the “insurance company representative” who you’re meeting with is really a private investigator. During the visit, the investigator is documenting your every move, the tidiness of your home, and whether you demonstrate any pain complaints or symptoms during your conversation.
How Can You Protect Your Privacy During a Disability Insurance Claim?
While you can’t prevent someone from filming you while running errands, there are ways you can protect your credibility and privacy during a disability insurance claim.
- Live within your limitations: It can be hard to admit you can’t do all the things you love, but pushing yourself is equally bad for your health and your disability claim. First, you may aggravate your condition by doing too much. Second, if an investigator catches you, it can damage your claim.
- Take a break from social media: Avoid using social media while your disability claim is pending. When you do post online, don’t forget to check your privacy settings (only people who are your friends should have access to your profiles). You should also ask your friends and family to refrain from posting images and status updates that include you. (It doesn’t hurt to take down your profile picture too.) If you get a “friend” or “follow” request from someone you don’t know, you should decline it right away.
- Warn your loved ones: Sometimes, investigators will contact a claimant’s friends and family and ask for information. Your loved ones might not intend to make damaging statements, but they might make missteps when asked leading questions. Politely ask them to decline any requests for information that they get.
- Consult a lawyer: If the insurance company hired a private investigator to track you, they’re preparing for a fight. It’s best to be proactive and speak with a disability insurance lawyer early on. That way, you’ll know where to turn if you have questions or need help with your long-term disability claim.
- Call 911 if you feel unsafe or threatened: If someone won’t leave your property or is threatening your safety, you should contact the authorities. While you can always call your lawyer for advice about dealing with an investigator, call 911 if you think you’re in immediate danger.
Bryant Legal Group: Illinois’ Trusted Disability Insurance Lawyers
At Bryant Legal Group, we help people deal with disability surveillance and strengthen credibility. If you have concerns about physical or electronic surveillance, call our law firm today. We can educate you about your legal rights, suggest strategies that can protect your privacy, and help you stand up to the insurance company.
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