UNUM Field Visits: How to Protect Your Privacy and LTD Claim
“It’s easier if we talk this over face-to-face,” says your UNUM claims adjuster. “We’ll drive to your home to go over the paperwork.” They suggest an in-person meeting.
Unfortunately, UNUM’s field visits aren’t always designed for your benefit. Like many long-term disability insurance companies, UNUM uses these interviews as an opportunity to investigate claimants, and at times, discredit them.
At Bryant Legal Group, we’ve handled many UNUM long-term disability claims that involve both employer-sponsored and private insurance plans. We’ve seen most of the company’s tactics firsthand, and we can help you combat them. In the second part of our UNUM series, we’ll discuss how UNUM uses field visits as a form of surveillance.
RELATED: UNUM’s Dirty Tricks: Tying Compensation to Denied Claims
What Happens Before the Field Interview or Visit?
Odds are very good that in the days and weeks leading up to your field interview or visit, the insurance company will conduct physical (video) surveillance of your daily activities. The purpose of the video surveillance is two-fold:
- To observe the extent of your physical limitations
- To potentially catch you in a lie during the field interview.
For example, before your field interview, an investigator may observe you taking out a garbage bag and placing it in a trash can. Then, during your interview a week later, the field rep may ask about your routine daily activities, such as sweeping, doing dishes, and taking out the trash. If you fail to mention taking out the trash, or say you do not do it (even if you only did it the one time), the insurance company will argue you are lying about the extent of your disability and may even accuse you of fraud. Therefore, it is very important to be accurate in your answers during the field interview.
What Is a Disability Field Interview or Visit?
A field visit occurs when a UNUM representative visits you, either at your home, a public place, or your office. That person may be a Unum employee or a hired private investigator. The purpose of the visit is to discuss your disability insurance claim. Adjusters often frame these meetings as a chance to discuss your claim and get to know you. However, it is important to remember that the insurance adjuster represents the insurance company, not you, and the insurance company increases its profits by denying claims.
Field visits are often a form of surveillance. The UNUM representative wants to examine your house, watch how you move about, and look for evidence that you’re not truthfully representing your disability. The field representatives typically have specialized investigative training, and their full-time job is interviewing disabled claimants. When the interviewer walks into your meeting, they already know a lot about you, and your claims adjuster may have given the interviewer specific directions about what they need to look for and ask you about.
Typically, a field visit involves the following activities:
- The field rep will ask to take your picture and record your conversation. You do not have to agree to this. However, remember that recorded conversations can protect you as well. Non-recorded interviews are subject to the notes, report and memory of the field interviewer, which will likely not be framed in your favor.
- The field rep will seem very warm and chatty; you should expect lots of personal questions about your family, activities, and lifestyle.
- The field rep will ask you questions about your symptoms, your treatment, and your physical and mental limitations.
- The rep may try to pressure you to sign forms or authorizations. Politely decline and ask for more time to read and review them.
- The interview may take longer than you expected, since the field rep is trying to gauge your physical and mental abilities. If you are not physically or mentally up to an extended interview, tell the field rep you need to stop and continue on another day, do not try to tough it out.
- The field rep will take lots of notes.
All of the information gathered by the field rep can help UNUM build a case against you. For example, if your home seems sparkling clean and you live alone, the insurance company will argue that you’re capable of doing more than you reported. Or, the representative will point out that you sat “comfortably” for hours, without needing to stand up, recline your chair, or shift positions. The interviewer will document anything and everything that could damage your credibility. They may even list good vantage points where an investigator could record your activities in the future.
What Happens After a UNUM Field Interview?
UNUM’s representative will compile their notes into a series of reports. You may get a summary report that outlines the information you discussed with the interviewer. UNUM will get an even longer, more detailed report that discusses your conversation, the representative’s observations, and suggestions about how UNUM should approach your disability insurance claim. You will not get a copy of this longer report unless you and your attorney request a copy of your insurance company file.
Based upon the representative’s report, UNUM may revise its approach to your claim. If they have not done so already, the insurer may hire a private investigator who will perform in-person and online surveillance. The company also may schedule an IME with an “independent medical examiner” who reliably sides with UNUM. Or, the insurer may simply deny your long-term disability claim.
Do I Have to Agree to a UNUM Field Visit?
Some long-term disability plans require that you participate in field visits. Newer policies often have stronger language that requires your compliance. You may even have to make a statement while under oath. However, you should never agree to a UNUM field interview until you review your Plan Document or Summary Plan Description.
If you need help understanding your rights, contact a long-term disability lawyer. Your attorney can help you review your long-term disability policy and determine whether you must attend a field interview.
5 Ways to Protect Yourself During a UNUM Field Visit
Even though UNUM’s field visits are intimidating and invasive, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
1. Meet in a Neutral, Public Place
UNUM’s representative wants to scope out your home, looking for ways to discredit you. However, you typically do not have to open your doors to their prying eyes. Instead, suggest that you meet in a public, accessible place. Many libraries have conference spaces you can use for free. If you already have a lawyer, they will typically schedule your field interview at their office.
2. Ask for Breaks and Change Positions as Needed
Don’t tough out the interview if you’re feeling uncomfortable. If you need to take a break, take medication, or adjust your position to stay comfortable, you should do so. While you should never exaggerate your pain and limitations, it’s also important that you accurately represent your symptoms during a field visit.
3. Be Prepared for Invasive Questions
UNUM’s field interviewers can be chatty, especially if you don’t have a disability lawyer. They’re hoping that you’ll open up and say something that damages your case. Expect open-ended questions like, “What’s your social life like?” or “How do you pass your time?”
When you answer these questions, make sure you don’t sugarcoat your abilities or talk about past hobbies. For example, if you loved to read, but now due to a traumatic brain injury, you can only focus on a page for a few minutes, don’t mention it as a pastime.
Additionally, don’t take the bait and go off-topic. If the UNUM representative asks you about your ability to walk, give them a short, honest answer. Don’t tell them about the time your dog ran off and you limped along for a half-hour looking for them, no matter how interesting the anecdote. The interviewer is not your friend.
Finally, if the interviewer asks something too personal, politely decline to answer the question. You can note that your favorite foods, best friends’ names, and the strength of your marriage are irrelevant to your long-term disability claim and then ask the field representative to move on. If you ever feel threatened or intimidated, you should politely end the meeting.
4. Expect Surveillance Before and After Your Field Interview
This advice also rings true for independent medical examinations (IMEs). UNUM is looking for inconsistencies in your claim. The company’s adjusters frequently hire private investigators to tail claimants before and after their interviews. They’re hoping that your behavior during the field visit is different than your daily activity level.
You don’t need to hide inside and close your curtains before and after a field visit. However, do your best not to push your limits during this time period. And if you see anyone on your property, you can ask them to leave.
5. Work With an Experienced Disability Insurance Lawyer
One of the simplest and surest ways to protect yourself and your long-term disability claim is to work with a respected disability insurance lawyer. When you have an attorney, they will typically prepare you for your field interview and attend the meeting.
Your disability lawyer will also help you navigate the visit and steer you away from potential mistakes and missteps that could cost you your LTD benefits.
Bryant Legal Group: Illinois’ Trusted Long-Term Disability Firm
Bryant Legal Group’s disability lawyers guide disabled individuals through their complex legal claims. We’re not afraid to stand up to big companies like UNUM and demand compensation for our clients. If you have questions about an upcoming field interview or a long-term disability claim, contact us today.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.