Insurance companies will often perform surveillance on workers claiming injury and disability. The level of surveillance activity depends upon a number of factors, including the aggressiveness of the employer, the body part injured, the type of injury and the activity level of the injured worker. For instance, if you have a foot injury, an insurance company may try to obtain surveillance to show how you go up and down steps, get in or out of a car or to see if you walk with a limp. If you have a back injury, a surveillance investigator may try to obtain video when you are at the supermarket carrying grocery bag or lifting your child in / out of the shopping cart. Whether you know it or not, an insurance company may hire a private investigator to go to your home and discreetly videotape your activities. While investigators cannot commit a trespass by entering your home, they can videotape you pulling trash cans to your curb, mowing your lawn, or shoveling snow in your driveway. They can also follow you in your vehicle and into public places like stores. So if you carry heavy pieces of wood out of Home Depot and lift them into the back of your truck, that could be videotaped. Sometimes, the surveillance will last for several days; other times, they will conduct surveillance for a few days, take a break, and then so another round of surveillance a month or two later. The lawyer for the insurance company will submit the DVDs of the surveillance to the judge and may present the testimony of the investigator or investigators who shot the surveillance to describe what you were doing when they videotaped you.
Yes. Insurance investigators can gain access to social media websites, such as Facebook. You have no right to privacy when posting on these sites. Social media users typically post information and photographs about vacations, activities they recently performed and social events they attended. All too often, an injured worker will post pictures of himself on Facebook – or one of the other social media sites – dancing, playing a sport, or engaging in some other activity that is inconsistent with him being disabled and unable to perform his job. This can significantly weaken the person’s workers’ compensation claim. Let’s say that the injured worker testifies before a workers’ compensation judge that his back injury causes him to limp, requiring him to use a cane, and he is unable to perform his job which entails standing several hours a day. If he then posts numerous pictures of himself dancing at a night club or playing basketball with his friends (or makes a comment such as “Had great time dancing last night” or “Enjoyed playing basketball over the weekend”), this is very likely to cause the judge to reject the person’s testimony as incredible and rule against him. How can a person participate in a vigorous activity like dancing or playing basketball but claim he cannot walk without a limp and needs a cane?
Yes, surveillance evidence can be damaging to a case, particularly if you are shown performing physical activities inconsistent with what you say you cannot do. Insurance companies try to perform surveillance when they know of an upcoming event, such as a hearing, doctor appointment / IME or deposition.
So here is the bottom line. Be careful what you do! Be careful what you say!
The Philadelphia work accident attorneys at Pearson Koutcher Law understand how critical and damaging surveillance can be to a case. We understand that insurance companies have many tools at their disposal and will utilize surveillance to cast doubt on the injured workers’ allegations of injury and disability. Unfortunately, surveillance doesn’t depict you in moments of pain, like when you can’t get out of bed in the morning or have difficulty tying your shoe due to back pain. Surveillance investigators often edit the film, and the camera stops recording when the injured worker actually shows signs of injury and functional limitation.
Pearson Koutcher Law workers compensation attorneys will challenge the testimony of the surveillance investigators, present the injured worker for testimony explaining the surveillance, and make sure the treating physician of the injured worker is aware of the surveillance.
If you have been injured at work, contact the experienced, aggressive and compassionate workers’ compensation law firm Pearson Koutcher Law
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